When I worked corporately, we would always talk to potential clients about being their critical friend as well as their strategic partner. We wanted them to know that while we might highlight any issues within their organisation, we were there to help find a solution. It wasn’t about fault, it was about improvement.
A critical friend is defined as:
“someone who is encouraging and supportive, but who also provides honest and often candid feedback that may be uncomfortable or difficult to hear. In short, a critical friend is someone who agrees to speak truthfully, but constructively, about weaknesses, problems, and emotionally charged issues”
Do you have anyone like that?
A lot of business owners talk about having a “Business buddy”, they can work in the same way as a critical friend, they are someone to bounce ideas off and share your business woes, it a bit of peer coaching – problem is if this person just comforts you and says that all your ideas are wonderful, ESPECIALLY if they aren’t your ideal client!
You need feedback or input that is based on facts rather than just feelings. A true critical friend should have the knowledge to help you with your business, perhaps you both work with similar client groups, e.g. A Wedding Photographer and a Florist or they work with other clients that provide the type of products or services that you do.
Having critical friendships within peer groups of your organisation is also key, we call them peer coaching groups, for example you could have all your managers as a group (no more than 8) and they can share their learning and challenges with one another, it helps individual fell supported, even if they are normally in another building with their team.
Often the nature of HR work means we end up being critical friends with our clients, because we know the secrets and the strategy. It’s a great compliment to be asked your opinion, but also a great responsibility.
Do you have a critical friend? If not I’d suggest finding one, they could make all the difference to your business and personal growth (and mental health).