Fortuitous Feedback?

21 September, 2011

Are you receiving and using Feedback for what it is really worth - to grow, to get better, to improve yourself, to become a master and an expert? Or is your delicate self-esteem getting in the way?

The greatest leaders and experts know how to seek and receive Feedback: they know it is the only way to grow, improve, and become masters and experts: both personally and performance wise. Yet, there is a huge problem: most of us are missing this fortuitous pot of gold: because our delicate sense of self gets in the way. I was a dedicated student of a hot yoga studio many years ago, where the director would continuously ask her students for Feedback: there was an annoymous box in the studio where you could write a note and drop it in, and her newsletters always asked at the end. However, whenever you gave any Feedback - as requested - it was mostly greeted with a defense of the status quo. She had the right idea asking, yet hadn't yet quite embodied the full purpose of receiving Feedback!

There are three main types of Feedback:

  1. The actual results of your actions (i.e. organising an event that went smoothly, people were happy)
  2. Feedback given to you by others: both verbally and in written form, and both "positive" and "constructive"
  3. The Internal Feedback you give yourself inside your head, when you evaluate yourself

For a lot of people, receiving any kind of Feedback in these ways is a self-esteem issue. The common immediate and automatic responses are:

  • Taking is as a personal criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Feeling like you have failed or are a failure
  • Feeling like what you did and who you are was just not good enough
  • Feeling like you have done something "wrong"
  • Feeling like you can "never get anything right"
  • Feeling stupid
  • Feeling like you should have known eveything ("why didn't I think of that?!")
  • Feeling punished
  • Feeling judged
  • Feeling mortified for not being "perfect"

The real shame is, that most people are afraid to give you useful Feedback that you can actually use to improve yourself, because they are worried that one or more of the above could happen, and they would end up upsetting you as oppose to improving you! This means once again, that because Feedback has become a self-esteem issue, you are missing out on fortuitous pots of gold for self and performance improvement.

When people give themselves Feedback inside their heads, your Intenal Feedback evaluation stystem, it is usually skewed and very unfairly focussed on the negative side - what went wrong, what wasn't good enough etc. When people are really good at evaluating themselves unfairly, you can easily miss signficant amounts of "positive" Feedback and focus on THAT ONE THING that someone said you could improve, and, instead of using it for its intended purporse, to improve, you take it as one of the above and feel mortified for days!

Doesn't seem fair does it?

Forgive yourself, though. These are very common unconscious programmes for people to be running inside themselves, which why I can write about them so generally and when you are reading this it will feel like I am writing just for you!

The Solutions

Some of these automatic programmes can be hard to change, and may take some work and professional help. However, there are things you can start to do now, to reframe the whole Feedback experience for yourself, and be able to receive and use Feedback for its true and awesome purpose: to grow, to get better, to improve and to become masters and experts:

  1. There is no such thing as perfection: you are not perfect and nothing ever goes perfectly and never will, so get over it, now!
  2. You can't ever know everything at the time - if you did, we wouldn't have a little word called hindsight in the dictionary that allows us to retrospectively learn! We would therefore move through life not learning anything at all. Think about it - how static, boring and pointless would that be? What would you really be here for, if there were no opportunities to learn in life?
  3. Feedback is not an insult and nothing you have to defend yourself against. There is no failure, only Feedback.
  4. Stop thinking about Feedback in "positive" and "negative" or "constructive" terms. There is Feedback that strokes your ego and reminds you that you are great after all, and there is Feedback you can actually use to improve yourself. That's it!
  5. Seperate yourself and your self-esteem from the work: when someone gives you Feedback it is about what you did not who you are. Who you are is MUCH greater than what you do / did.
  6. When engaged in Internal Feedback - be fair. See a balanced equation. Ask yourself two questions: What did I do well that I want to do again? And What can I improve for next time?
  7. Do something compeltely different: start asking for Feedback you can use, and start receiving Feedback you can use. Go on - you will be amazed at the speed and ease at which you can grow! And it really takes the pressure off you try and be perfect, as you assume there will be things to improve (as, of course, there always will be). I start every training and every client session by saying: "I would be very grateful at the end if you could tell me what worked well for you, and even more grateful if you could pay attention to the things you think I could improve, and tell me how I could improve them".

I finished reading a great book last week - Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. He is an Entrepreneur who started a business as a hobby, and later sold that business for $22 million! I emailed him to have chat and get some advice, and the advice he gave me was this:

"My main tip on finding excellent talent is to not need excellent talent!
Main point is: make sure your business doesn't depend on brilliant talent. Find someone who is passionate, and excited to learn. Then teach them your way of doing things, including how to continuously improve, and document their improved methods."

My point exactly - thanks Derek! You can find him here.

As always, I welcome your Feedback about anything I have written here, or anything at all, really, that you think could help me improve what I do. Email me personally here, I would love to hear from you!

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