Learn to Love Feedback: It's Your Career Currency

"Never flinch at failure: If you're not making some mistakes, you're not doing anything - not trying to make things happen. Mistakes are part of winning - not dumb mistakes or those caused by haste and sloppiness but mistakes made by intelligent and thoughtful individuals attempting to make something happen."—John Wooden in The Essential Wooden (click here to read my Essential Wooden book notes)

People often seem to feel attacked by feedback, when in reality it's one of the single most effective ways to improve your performance. Wooden's entire philosophy was built around meticulous observation and feedback of the teams he coached. Wooden says, "Perfection is imposible. Capitalizing on imperfection - mistakes - makes all the difference."

For this reason, I think of feedback as career currency - a valuable commodity that can make a big difference in your performance. While feedback can be hard to hear at times, I like to think it shows that person cares about my development - and that's a good thing. I don't want to be the person walking around with proverbial food in my teeth all day, with no one caring enough to point it out.

Your goal should be to collect as many pieces of feedback as you can over the course of your career - from managers AND peers. I believe that the ability to gracefully receive feedback, and subsequently change that behavior, is a key distinguishing factor for star performers. Good feedback will help you improve and adjust to your environment more quickly than you could do on your own - so treat it like gold and grow that bank account!

5 things I've learned about feedback:

  1. Continuous, constructive feedback makes you rich. It accelerates your learning and development and will often lead to improved relationships and potentially faster career progression.
  2. We're often unaware of our own blind spots. For example, imagine yourself as a Starbucks barista: What if you could make a latte twice as fast if someone showed you how? Wouldn't you want to know? You may never have figured out those new techniques without feedback from another observer.
  3. Ask! Let people know that you're open to feedback. Don't argue or get defensive when they do give feedback - just say thank you. You can decide later (on your own time) what you want to take or leave from that feedback.
  4. Give! In the spirit of helping others, practice giving them feedback too. Be specific about behaviors, not just the tasks or the work itself. For example, someone tells you "great presentation!" and another says "Great composure and eye contact during that presentation." Which version would you find more helpful?
  5. Need help delivering clear feedback? Try the EAR formula: Event, Action, Result. For example: During the meeting last week (EVENT), you were biting your nails (ACTION) and the result was that you appeared nervous, which may have left the wrong impression on our clients (RESULT).

How to Start Growing Your Feedback Account

Below is a 4-Step Feedback Recipe from my friends at Rypple (a free web 2.0 feedback service) to help you be more intentional about getting feedback:

  1. Set a goal: what do you want to accomplish or develop? e.g. I want to improve my communication skills.
  2. Build an adviser network: pick a group of advisers who can help you achieve your goal.
  3. Request feedback: ask your advisers short, focused questions, frequently to continuously reveal actionable insights.
  4. Commit to action: ACT on the feedback you get! Sharing those actions with your adviser network will motivate you and keep you on track.

Click here to learn more about Rypple, set-up an advisor network, create a development plan, or start getting feedback!