What <i>Shark Tank</i> Can Teach Us About Feedback

The show is fascinating on multiple levels, but one of the ones that gets overlooked is the concept of feedback.
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If you haven't seen ABC's Shark Tank, you're missing an interesting look inside venture capitalism. Real entrepreneurs come on the show and pitch a panel of five successful business investors, asking for a six-figure investment in their start-up in exchange for a piece of the action. If the opportunity is good, the panelists - collectively known as "The Sharks" - battle to back the enterprise. If not, the contestant goes home with nothing.

The show is fascinating on multiple levels, but one of the ones that gets overlooked is the concept of feedback.

Contestants make their initial pitches. Then they have to field questions from The Sharks. Throughout the process, entrepreneurs have to listen to what they are doing wrong and why the Shark isn't interested. And of course, The Sharks never accept the proposal as made.

All this is fascinating because entrepreneurs have to put themselves out there. They seek the criticism and risk it will undermine the pitch.

In real life, few of us do this. We don't ask people what they think of our work, our skills, our personalities. Maybe it just doesn't occur to us we should. Maybe we're afraid of the answers.

But the rewards can be enormous. Shark Tank participants earn a valuable investment in their ventures if they are successful. We can learn where we need to improve.

Imagine if you knew your emails were really unclear, or you don't make enough eye contact in meetings, or people value your insight on personnel matters? Couldn't you use that information? Couldn't you improve on your skills to advance your career?

Soft skills are key to success in business, and they're developable. But you have to know where you need the help. Seeking feedback on our work and on our soft skills can make us much more successful.

The Sharks are always interested in the bottom line. You can improve yours if you risk seeking feedback.

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