A Strand of Three Cords: Getting Honest Feedback

You have probably heard it said,

“A single cord is easily broken; two cords together are stronger, though still easily broken; but, a strand of three cords is not easily broken and can withstand much.”

The reference here is targeted toward relationships with others.  Though we might have a preference or desire to “go it alone,” one person may not easily withstand the challenges we face.  Having a relationship with one other is better, but having a partnership with two others is better yet.

Let me illustrate…  I have often seen an individual react in disbelief when provided with honest feedback on their performance, behaviors, or the overall value they provide to the organization.  It is very easy for us to fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe about ourselves, not the actual truth.  We do not easily give ourselves honest feedback.  My observations over many years at multiple companies with hundreds of year-end self-appraisals reveals that the percentage of individuals that rate themselves as “exceeds” would be >50%.  Yet, the final percentage of “exceeds” is a third or less than that.

Why do individuals struggle to have “self-awareness?”  How can we become better at understanding our gaps… thus, having the opportunity to improve?  That is where the three strands of cord come in.  If we each had two other individuals that we trust and that would provide that unbiased, honest feedback (and, do the same for each other), that strand of three cords would become stronger.  Each individual cord would become stronger and the combined strand of three cords would be much more able to withstand the challenges of the job or difficulties in your personal life.

Let’s look at some specific examples of how a “strand of three cords” can be beneficial:

  1. Regular feedback on how you handle specific situations  (“Did I handle that situation with him well?  What should I have done?”)
  2. Individuals to bounce ideas off without fear of criticism  (in effect, try out the idea before doing so in public)
  3. Help embellishing or rounding out thoughts or ideas  (thought partners that can help answer “Am I missing something here?”)
  4. Pre-review your year-end self-appraisal to ensure it is accurate
  5. Individuals you trust that can share the load when it becomes too heavy
  6. Help ensuring that you remain objective versus emotional
  7. Individuals that can help you prepare for important presentations, meetings, or events
  8. Accountability partners to help you stay focused and on-track to achieving goals, objectives, or personal targets

In short, when you ask two other individuals to partner with you* as a “strand of three cords”, you are admitting that the benefits of honest feedback and accountability from two others will help you become a stronger person individually and that your team of three can better withstand the trials that come to us all.  So, what do you think?  Is it worth a try?

Thanks for making this a great place to work.  Have an outstanding “best day yet!”


*It is best to find a regular, re-occurring time to meet (e.g., lunch once/week or a couple times/mo, for example) and make a significant effort to keep that time free.  Block it out on your calendar and keep it unavailable for anything else.


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