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ERNEST HEMINGWAY: Here's Your Next Quote to Use With a High Potential Who is Performing Average at Best...

I'm serving up perhaps the best quote I've ever seen related to coaching talent today.  It's pulled from the the blog Letters of Note (hat tip to Tim Sackett), from a letter that resulted when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his friend, Ernest Hemingway, and asked for his honest opinion on his new book - Tender Is the Night.  Hemingway wrote him a pretty interesting letter that included the aforementioned quote:

“It's a lot better than I say. But it's not as good as you can do.”

Think about that quote for a second.  Coaches of all types are known for being hard on their students, and of course, those same students tend to tune the coaches out over time.  That's the way it works, right?  That's why leaders tend to have a shelf life of 2-5 years.  People start tuning out over time.

Why do people tune out?  Because you're telling them what to do too much, dummy.  

So imagine the power of you interrupting that pattern and falling on the sword - telling them their performance is better than you sometimes give them credit for, but the real standard they should be measuring themselves against is their own potential/capability.

Do better not because I tell you to. That's lame.

Do better because you've got gifts from god, Billy.

See the whole letter here.  Then share it with your team and use the quote often.



High potential performance coaching tip from Hemingway. Thanks @timsackett @krisdunn #chequed #talentselection


Who wouldn't like feedback like that? He got some really thoughtful comments followed with a "I really like you and think you're amazingly talented".

Feedback is the breakfast of champions (forgot who said that). Corny, but true - Proven with data by Gallup, Jim Collins, Blanchard/Johnson, ...

If this seems really easy to you, it's probably because you're an HR Pro. Don't assume your managers are good at it (especially if you are not modelling it to them).

Elyssa Thome

Great point Matt. The whole letter is an excellent model for feedback. Even (and maybe especially) with friends, the goal of feedback is not to make someone like you. To be an effective mentor you need to challenge and encourage. Well worth sharing!

Elyssa Thome

Though I'm not sure F. Scott was too keen on receiving feedback that his wife is crazy and ruined him...

Might want to leave feedback like that out of performance reviews.


"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit."

Best. Line. Ever!

You could almost say, I hire one HiPo to ninety one P.O.S' (in high turnover environments).


Yeah, maybe the crazy wife bit was a little over-the-top.

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