People Need Feedback

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. – Bill Gates

According to 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, failing to provide feedback is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don’t provide prompt feedback to your people, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance.

Lots of people have lost their jobs for the simply reason that their boss was too big of a chicken to give them the feedback they needed to improve. Yes, just because you’re a boss doesn’t mean you can’t be a chicken too.

Have you ever been in a position where you had to let someone go? Were they shocked to discover that their performance wasn’t sufficient to keep their job? Then it’s most likely that you failed to provide them the feedback the needed to improve their performance. No one should ever be blindsided by their own firing, they should see it coming from miles and months away.

When Bill Gates said “We all need feedback” he truly meant “all.” No one sees themselves as other people see them. We have the ability to justify behavior in ourselves that we wouldn’t tolerate in other people. We use the “yea, but” defense to let ourselves off the hook way too easily.

Even your most seasoned people need feedback. They need another set of eyes, another set of values, and a different batch of experiences to provide them with other views that they can’t get from a mirror.

It’s not just your people who need feedback. You as a leader need feedback too. If your people see you as an Authentic Serving Leader they will likely provide you with at least some of the feedback you need. If they see you as a boss you’re in big trouble because you won’t be receiving any feedback from the people in the best position to provide it to you. They probably won’t trust you enough to be truthful with you.

If you’re in a leadership position then you owe it to your people to help them grow by giving them thoughtful, meaningful, relevant feedback. Consistently. Do not “store up” feedback for their annual review, provide them with useful information on their performance, both good and not so good, that they can use throughout the year.

When you provide the needed feedback you eliminate mistakes, minimize stress, both yours and your people’s, and potentially grow future leaders.

If you’re truly a leader you also owe it to yourself to allow your people to provide you with the feedback YOU need to grow. You simply must have people on your team who trust you enough to be honest with you. You can only build that trust by not “shooting the messenger” when they provide you with feedback. Feel free to disagree if you must but don’t do it defensively. And never never never retaliate for feedback meant to help you, whether it’s accurate feedback or not.

But….. and this is a BIG but; to do any of this you must get over your own fear of confrontation, of being thought of as a hard ass, or a jerk. If you’re truly an Authentic Serving Leader you will invest the time required to give your people feedback in a way that they can accept and use, to their benefit and yours.

If you’re frustrated with your people constantly making the same mistakes then STOP being frustrated and START providing the kind of feedback that leads to real behavioral change.

That’s what leaders do.


11 thoughts on “People Need Feedback

  1. Absolutely Steve! Great post.

    The best environment for mutual feedback is one that we choose to create. The soil must contain a sense of emotional safety. Without that feeling of safety, we are on guard. (and this is natural!)

    When we KNOW that feedback is meant to help us and not hurt us, it’s easier to be open to. When we know the person delivering the feedback genuinely cares about us (yes, even a boss or co-worker is allowed to care about their people) and has our best interests at heart, it’s easier to be more open and receptive. It also helps when they are just as open about their own mistakes and easily receive feedback.

    When we can look at mutual feedback as a win/win instead of a win/lose and actually DESIGN it to be this way, I’d like to believe more and more would be not only more open to feedback but more inclined to seek it out from people they trust.

    1. Thanks Michael, you’re right of course, we can’t hear this too much. Somehow “feedback” seems to strike fear into too many people. But all feedback is good if we use it to improve. It doesn’t matter how it was meant, it only matters how we choose to accept it.

      1. It’s so easy to get defensive when we encounter negative feedback, rather than finding what we ought to take away and improve. Any thoughts on not taking negative feedback personally?

      2. I have from time to time received some very negative feedback. We have to make a decision, a choice if you will, about how we will accept it. We cannot control whether or not the feedback was meant to hurt or help us. We can however, completely how we choose to use it. No matter what, all feedback is informative. It tells us at minimum about the person providing the feedback.

        Either they are trying to build us up or tear us down. If it’s the later then we have just learned to stay away from that person. If they are trying to build us up then we must reflect on the feedback to find the truth in it. We may not like the fact that there can be truth in negative feedback but if our goal is to improve then we must accept it. Like it or not.

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