What’s one thing you’d like to be really great at?
Maybe it’s listening, parenting, cooking, fitness or something else.
Whatever you choose to improve, becoming a feedback-seeking demon will help you get there.
Here’s a short example:
When I was a novice principal I wanted to improve my emotional intelligence so I asked my staff for feedback. And boy did the feedback provide me with some powerful realizations. The biggest aha was that empathy was my weakest area.
It wasn’t that I completely lacked empathy. Let’s just say I had lots of room for growth. And as a school principal, empathy was pretty darn important.
So, I asked my staff to let me know when I missed an opportunity to express empathy.
Once we get feedback, then what?
In the bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth writes about how people become experts. One of the key methods is through what she calls deliberate practice. And people who have grit don’t just practice more—they practice differently. One key to this difference has to do with feedback.
“As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right.”
Making adjustments based on feedback about what we do wrong isn’t easy. It can feel pretty uncomfortable. But, that’s exactly what will help us to do it right more often. (For more on how to hear feedback, check out this post: On the Receiving End of Feedback? Say “Thank You”)
What does this mean for us?
We can’t just wait for feedback to come our way.
When we have something we want to get better at we need to become feedback-seeking demons. This means asking others what we can improve.
My favorite way is to ask this one question: What’s one thing I can do to improve at ____? This helps the feedback provider focus on what’s most important. We all know how overwhelming it can feel to get too much feedback.
Then, it’s up to us to use the feedback to focus how we practice so we can get better at our chosen goal.
Here’s the rest of my feedback story:
I still remember the freezing cold winter morning when a teacher assigned to outside door duty asked me, “Couldn’t the kids line up inside today?”
I handed her my fur-lined suede mittens, along with my usual reply about how important getting ten minutes of fresh air is for the kids, thinking the offer of mittens was showing empathy.
Later that day, with kindness, she gave me the feedback I had asked for. She said,
“Jamie, you missed an opportunity to show empathy today. The mittens were great but what I really needed was for you to empathize with my discomfort.”
Aha! That one interaction was an enormous help in growing my empathy. And I would never have gotten the lesson if I hadn’t asked for it by becoming a feedback-seeking demon.
I’d say that when we seek specific feedback, are willing to be uncomfortable and then use the feedback to get better, we have our best shot to grow. What would you say?
Here’s a link to Angela Duckworth’s Website where you can learn how gritty you are by taking her Grit Scale and view her TED Talk: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
For more on feedback check out my award-winning book, Less Stress Business: A Guide for Hiring, Coaching and Leading Great Employees.