I sweat a lot when I work out. Like, more than anybody I know.

When I played Little League baseball, my coaches and teammates used to laugh because the brim of my cap was always soaked to the max. I get hot in general. I crank the air conditioning down at night when I sleep. (I’m not thrilled with global warming, to say the least, for this and many far more important reasons.)

And so back in the 1990s, when I fell into a routine of taking step aerobics classes, I naturally had to deal with excessive perspiration issues. I was constantly wiping sweat from my eyes and face while trying to pay attention to whatever moves I needed to mimic to avoid making a complete fool of myself. My solution was to purchase a black head band.

Note that I said “a” black head band. The singular article will soon be important.

I started wearing the head band every time I took an aerobics class. I might not have bothered to actually toss it into the washing machine. And I took 3-4 classes per week.

One Saturday, after getting dressed for class and putting my trusty head band into place, I walked into the aerobics room and found a place to stand. As I was waiting for class to start, I became aware of a strong odor in my vicinity.

I moved about some, trying to get away from whomever it was that was stinking up the joint. But it seemed that wherever I traveled, the stink followed me. Finally, amid a horrifying epiphany, I casually slid off the headband and quickly sniffed it.

And promptly threw it into the nearest trash can. Later that day I purchased five new head bands, which I rotated through and tossed into the wash on a regular basis.

Enduring moral of the story: If you’re wondering why things stink, it might be because YOU stink.

And let’s be real: We all stink sometimes.

That’s why we all need to ask for feedback on a regular basis. Surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you the truth. And take them up on it.

Model the kind of feedback you want to receive

Most people aren’t naturally good at giving or receiving feedback. It’s a muscle to develop, a learned habit, a skill that’s not complicated in and of itself but forces us to grapple with two ubiquitous challenges of the human condition:

  1. The desire to not offend anyone around us
  2. The desire to hear only positive stuff about ourselves and our work

Here’s three tips that can help you begin to grow more comfortable with providing feedback and enhance your comfort level with receiving it.

  1. Be specific and concrete. Give clear, detailed examples to illustrate your points, so that the recipient can quickly know what to do differently.
  2. Emphasize behaviors, not character or personality. You’re not trying to break someone or alienate them; you’re trying to help them get better in a specific area so they can thrive (which is great for you, too, as an important person in their orbit).
  3. Be timely. Give your specific, behavior-focused feedback as soon after your observations as possible. If you put it off, you’ll inadvertently lessen the impact and relevance of your feedback, no matter how well you deliver it.

Let’s connect

I’m an ICF and Hogan certified coach, equipping professionals to develop their authentic human leadership capabilities in the age of AI. My customers are internal HR or L&D professionals seeking coaching for their business clients, as well as business leaders looking to connect directly with a coach for themselves or their team members. Use this link to schedule a call with me to discuss potential coaching services. You can also email me or message me on LinkedIn.