The Gift of Feedback

One of the pleasures of getting older is the joy of having grandchildren. I’ve been blessed (so far) with seven inherited Grand Delights (as we refer to them) from Tom’s children with an 8th baby girl on the way in April. The current youngest, 10-month-old Jake, lives close enough that on most Tuesdays we get the privilege of caring for him while his parents work. It is a joy to have a baby in the house on a regular basis again. On Tuesdays, we spend most of our time playing with Jake and praising him for every little thing he does—which, of course, he loves.

As grownups and professionals, we also need a little praise every now and then, but what we need even more is a whole lot of consistent, trustworthy feedback from which to grow and develop.

Feedback is hard to ask for, hard to give, and sometimes hard to hear, but if we want to be the kind of professional that is known for constant improvement, we must not only accept feedback but seek and welcome it.

Feedback is a glorious gift that is sometimes wrapped in ugly paper. If it has been given poorly in the past, we can be resistant to it. But if we don’t accept feedback, we don’t grow. Simple as that. No feedback, no growth. Feedback is a true professional’s secret weapon especially when they have developed a regular system for receiving and asking for ways in which they can grow. This includes owners, leaders, managers, and frontline professionals.

Certainly, getting feedback from people you trust and who have been trained to give accurate, specific, and useful feedback can make all the difference. But we often have to seek this out. Imagine how much you might be able to grow if you had a regular monthly meeting with a colleague who answered these questions for you:

  • What have you noticed that I could do better? Where could I be more effective?
  • Where have you seen me act unprofessionally or be inconsistent?
  • What have you noticed that I might be missing?
  • Where do you think I might have a blind spot?

I look for team members who will not only be receptive and eager for professional feedback but will also give it constructively and thoughtfully to others. And I have found that the more I get feedback from those I trust and respect, the easier it gets to hear it. It’s like you develop a tougher feedback muscle and lose your hyper-sensitive skin over time. Getting good feedback has made me a better parent, leader, speaker, coach, and friend.

When I’m asked to give feedback, I try to think of articulating it in two ways: What can I reinforce and what can I redirect?  I find that helpful in keeping it clear, honest, and positive. I never want feedback from me to be so vague that it doesn’t hurt but doesn’t help either. I always want it to be specific enough to add value and positive enough to be heard and used for improvement.

This week, ask yourself who you could call upon to set up a regular recurring meeting where you get feedback on your performance and effectiveness. Have specific questions for them to answer and monitor yourself in terms of how you listen and internalize the information. If you get good at asking for and receiving feedback, you will grow. You will improve. You will increase your value. You will become a professional that companies fight to get and fight to keep.

“Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”
~ Doc Rivers