Of all the things that have helped me to grow over the years as a person, as a husband, and as a leader, what has helped the most is when I have received specific feedback. I like reading books and enjoy seminars as these give me new information to process in how to be or do things better. I do my very best in transferring that knowledge into new skill, and I do okay because I have a high level of commitment in doing it. But as a human being who is also broken, blind, and limited in perspective, I can’t always see myself clearly or hear myself clearly when engaged in that new skill or behavior. That is why feedback is so important if I want to grow beyond basic competence.

I have thought a lot about feedback over the years and its role in our lives. Feedback can be general (“Good job!”) to very specific (“You really colored inside the lines well.”) We get feedback all the time if we are truly watching and listening. Examples include:

  • Receiving a honk on the horn from the car next to you as you veer closer to that car.
  • Receiving a less than enthusiastic “I love you,” from your spouse one morning.
  • Receiving any sort of comment from your mother-in-law about how you are raising your children.

All these are forms of feedback, and they tell us about the current condition of that specific element in our lives. It is up to us to do something with it.

As a young adult, having competed in sports at a high level and also having been involved in performing arts, I was being set up to the idea of receiving feedback. I didn’t understand what was happening, but a lot of good coaching helped me raise my game as I received very specific feedback in multiple disciplines. They were not attacking me, they were attacking my positioning on the field, or my top-spin forehand, or how low I got to the ground to gather a fast ground ball. To get better—or rather, to be amazing at any given skill or discipline—I believe we need specific feedback that targets the areas where we need to grow. This is the only way we can take our game to the next level.

Feedback is an incredible way to raise our performance levels, and I believe it has a place in every arena of life. At work, we get used to the idea of receiving feedback maybe once or twice a year at performance appraisal time, but this doesn’t help us a great deal. An athletic coach doesn’t give feedback to a player once or twice a year but constantly during games and practice so their performance improves as they go along. Accordingly, I believe that all career professionals should go after feedback on a weekly, or bi-weekly cycle. So, in what areas can we seek feedback? There are many areas we can look to. Here is a simple list to get started:

“What specific feedback can you give me in how I can improve…

  • my timeliness or time management skills?”
  • my follow through on tasks/actions?”
  • my meeting management skills?”
  • my public speaking skills?”
  • my communication skills?”
  • my listening skills?”
  • my coaching and development of yours or the team’s performance?”
  • holding everyone on the team accountable?”
  • building trust and collaboration on the team?”
  • how I show poise or confidence under pressure?”
  • determining priorities and setting goals?”
  • (insert here the last major initiative or goal that you led)

Use any of these ideas to seek and grow from feedback. But a caution, I have seen over time that some people love to receive feedback while others are less than open to receiving it. Why is that? We’ll talk about that in my next post.

Until then, lead on,

Image by U.S. Naval War College. Used under CC by 2.0 license.