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First Book Blog: Feedback

July 6, 2010 by Targeted Learning | add new comment

We are happy to announce the August 14th release of “Where’s the Gift?: Using Feedback to Work Smarter, Learn Faster and Avoid Disaster” by Nigel Bristow and Michael-John Bristow. Over the next six weeks we will provide a weekly blog that will give you a preview of the book and an inside look into the author’s own experience with feedback.


The Path to World-Class Performance

In his book Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin reports on dozens of studies that were designed to identify the path leading to world-class performance. The findings are conclusive: intensive practice along with constant feedback and adaptation—not innate talent or IQ—best explain exceptional performance. (Geoff Colvin, “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else,” The Penguin Group, 2008.) It is very liberating to know that. Becoming world class at something is not determined by an accident of birth, but is driven by individual choice that is informed by feedback. Your success is not determined by things over which you have little control, but is driven by abilities that are relatively easy to learn.

Seeking feedback also enhances how you are perceived by others. Ashford and Northcroft found that individuals who genuinely seek candid feedback are more highly valued by their managers than those who simply wait for feedback to come to them. (S.J. Ashford and G.B. Northcroft, “Conveying More [or Less] Than We Realize: The Role of Impressions Management in Feedback Seeking,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process, 1992, vol. 53.)

Feedback is critical not just for personal success, but also for organization success. Research by Chris Voss of the London Business School demonstrates that customer satisfaction scores are highest for companies in which employees receive timely feedback directly from customers. (Chris Voss, London Business School, The Economist, April 24, 2004, p. 69.) Information from daily, face-to-face customer feedback is more effective at improving customer satisfaction than information collected from annual customer service surveys. Timely feedback is the surest path to customer retention.

In his study of innovation, Gifford Pinchot found that successful innovators within large corporations are masters at seeking and using feedback. Before trying to secure formal sanction for their proposals, innovators informally solicit feedback from potential stakeholders and others. This allows them to identify and then plug holes in their new ideas—before trying to win broader support. By using feedback from potential critics to improve their ideas, the innovators transform potential naysayers into staunch supporters. (Gifford Pinchot III, “Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur,” Harper and Row, 1985.)

Fearing criticism, some would-be innovators skip the above step. When they fail they blame it on “resistance to change”—when it was in reality their own “resistance to feedback” that derailed them. William Simms recognized the crippling power of fear: “Those who want to acquire fame and fortune must not show themselves afraid of criticism. The dread of criticism is the death of genius.”


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