Earlier this year, one of my coaching clients (let’s call him Dennis) was given a surprising and difficult performance review. While his sales numbers were excellent, his new regional sales manager (RSM) was becoming increasingly frustrated by Dennis’s “frat boy” behavior. The company was putting real pressure on their sales organizations to demonstrate more professional, polished behavior both internally and externally. At first, Dennis was angry and resentful that he was being labeled as “unprofessional” when he worked so hard to deliver big numbers and to be a product and market expert. He was defensive about the critical feedback and had to be reminded that there was also positive feedback. This is a common reaction, as we all know.

View Dr. Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability and hear her humorous and insightful take on manager feedback.

Dennis’s RSM explained that because his colleagues saw him as “the leader of the pack” he had influence, and therefore he was going to have to act more like the leader. Moreover, the RSM expressed senior management’s belief in his leadership potential and invited him to embrace the idea and work with his coach to develop his leadership presence. This was the positive that eluded Dennis at first. But once the initial emotion subsided, the opportunity became clear to Dennis. Upon reflection, he decided he wanted to “write his own ending to the story.”  He told me he realized this story could end in three ways:  He could stay mad and quit, or he could dismiss the feedback and get fired, or he could become a full participant in the process and write a happy ending that included professional behavior, gratitude for the investment in him, and demonstrations of leadership at the highest level. He chose the third option to end his story.

I was impressed. We worked to define new behaviors for him, ways to handle himself when among his rowdy sales colleagues, new ways to communicate upward, etc. Dennis fully embraced the new behaviors.

The response from others was immediate and positive. Not only is are his colleagues treating him with new respect, but his RSM has steadily been giving him more opportunities to demonstrate his leadership. His mid-year review will be much more positive thanks to his response to his earlier feedback.

What’s your story? The midpoint of the year is a great time to reflect back and strategize for the future. What were your stated objectives, and have you met them? Or do they need to be revised because of emerging issues in your business? How can you exceed expectations? How can you add value every day? And at the end of your story, will you be the hero?