The Impact of a Recommendation

I had the opportunity recently to fill out an unconventional bio for a company that wanted to get some info on me.  Besides the usual, where did you work and what degrees you have earned, this bio asked questions like “What did you learn from your mother?” and “When you were a child, what do you most remember about playing?”.  Interesting questions, but the one that stumped me for a bit was “What do people say about you?”.

Now I have heard a lot of what people say about me (and not heard probably lots more).  But it is hard to put that down on a bio, without either sounding incredibly pompous or wishy washy.  I could ask people to recommend me on LinkedIn and get some of that feedback, but in general, the recommendations on LinkedIn are very white bread and don’t really give the flavor that I was trying to provide. I could give snippets of client thank you letters or performance reviews, but that too was not really what I was trying to provide as part of this bio.

And then I remembered the goofy exercise that we did at a previous employer.  I was working as a director of a professional services group.  I was one of 7 directors and it was the best working group that I had ever been on.  Not that we always agreed, but there was a dynamic quality to our interactions. For one of our offsite meetings, our Recruiting Director had the wild idea of having each of us write a short paragraph extolling the virtues of each of the other members, as a sort of recommendation. We all thought — there she goes again, new agey, touchy feely stuff, but we did it. She then collated them and provided each of us with a full version of our recommendations, without attribution.  It was a tremendous insight to see how others saw us. In some cases it was obvious who wrote the recommendation, but in others, I still have no idea.  What I was left with, though, was a composite of how I have impacted others.  I have kept that sheet in a special place.

And it was to that place that I went when I had to create my bio.


  • Sometimes the most goofy sounding exercises can give you true value over the same old stuff.
  • Take an opportunity to write a short note to people (handwritten, if possible) to tell them about how them have impacted your life.  You have no idea how important this could be to someone’s day, life, ego, career.
  • If you are a manager of a team and want to make the team more cohesive, try this exercise.  I can guarantee that everyone will get something out of it.  Don’t forget to include yourself in this.  You can nominate someone else to receive the recommendations for you, so that they remain anonymous.

3 thoughts on “The Impact of a Recommendation”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Someone once said to me feedback can only trusted as being truly sincere when provided anonymously.

    I’ll tell you, that does sound like an interesting exercise. I experienced something very similar within a services organization I worked out. And like you, I was a member of an incredible team brought together by a very team-focused leader. Do we know each other?

  2. I am not sure, Brian. If you feel this way, perhaps we should try to meet up in person.

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