Few of our successes occur in solitude. Sure, the grunt work happens in the workspace alone. But true brilliance? That takes place when we invite others in to the process.
The beneficial feedback.
Feedback is crucial to ensuring a job well done. When we bring our creation into the light to see if it will pass muster, we expose it to criticism and/or praise. It could go either way. We never know until we offer the work for review.
Elite athletes and billionaire CEOs seek feedback. Companies get customer feedback before launching a new product. Organizations implementing a radically new system start with a pilot program. The purpose behind this process is to work the bugs out early. Doing so saves time, money, and frustration.
So, why don’t we seek out feedback in our own lives? Why do we hesitate?
What Hinders Us from Seeking Feedback
Our ideas are fragile. We fear criticism and ridicule. Just the thought of rejection makes some of us cower. For creatives, making something out of nothing is life-giving. Yet, exposing that creation means we risk the tender work to potential negative criticism. This is especially threatening when we do something completely new.
The Short Feedback Loop
At last year’s Tribe Conference, I walked away with a journal full of valuable insights and action steps. One valuable nugget that stuck with me was a conversation between Author Tim Grahl and Editor Shawn Coyne. Grahl shared with the audience of writers and creatives how they need a short feedback loop on their work.
Before an author gets too far into their book, it’s extremely valuable to have a writing coach or an editor review the working manuscript. This way, problems with plot, structure, etc. can be caught early on. The ongoing feedback saves the writer time and effort later.
Since the conference, I’ve thought a lot about that presentation and also how feedback is integral to most any career success.
The whole point of immediate feedback is to help us improve. We may seek guidance from trusted advisors such as mentors, coaches, accountability partners, mastermind groups, or critique groups. Just like writers are sometimes too close to the manuscript to catch glaring errors, we too can be too close to our own work to see problems.
What Happens When Feedback is Delayed
A common frustration among human resources managers is the disconnect between supervisor and employee that surfaces during annual performance reviews.
As a former HR person, I’ve witnessed the pain and embarrassment employees suffer when blind-sided by a poor review. Supervisors act dumbstruck, believing employees should have known their work wasn’t up to par.
Yet, it’s not always obvious to the employee. If no one brings the poor performance to his attention and he doesn’t recognize it on his own, how else will he find out? Waiting to address an issue until the next annual performance review allows the problem to fester.
Competent supervisors communicate often with employees on performance, training, and routine day-to-day operations. This way no one is surprised during annual reviews. Both parties already know if the work is being completed satisfactorily.
When Immediate Feedback Works
For a short feedback loop to work, it takes trust and openness between both parties.
In Toastmasters clubs across the globe, groups of individuals meet consistently for the purpose of improving communication and leadership skills. The mutually supportive environment makes it a safe and comfortable place for members to grow. New speakers and seasoned veterans alike give and receive immediate feedback following prepared speeches.
Anyone who speaks at the meeting is also advised if they used crutch words, had grammatical errors, or used ahs and ums. Often, presenters aren’t aware until it is brought to their attention.
Once speakers are mindful of the issue, they can incorporate recommendations into subsequent presentations. Knowledge builds upon knowledge. They continue to improve and are better equipped to deliver their message with confidence when the stakes are higher.
Elon Musk said, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
Remember, it’s a feedback loop. The whole point of receiving input from others is to hear, process, filter, and apply the information. After making changes, report back. The cycle continues until the work is ready for the rest of the world.
The little tweaks we get through immediate feedback are no small matters. They can make the difference between success and failure.
What are some opportunities in your life where you could seek feedback?