We love to be told how great we are. Admit it. Someone has probably expressed admiration for what you do, and you’ve probably basked in it. It’s a lot harder to deal with honest feedback. In chapter 8 of Your Best Just Got Better, Jason Womack takes us on a tour of ways to define feedback and ways to make it more useful. On page 159, he offers the Wikipedia definition of feedback: “Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same.”
Here’s why soliciting regular and honest feedback is a good idea. You probably have a self-image that is inconsistent with reality. You probably think you’re way better than you actually are on some margins. You probably think you are worse than you actually are on other margins.
Honest feedback helps you better align your beliefs with reality. It helps you identify strengths to emphasize (you have a lot of cool ideas), weaknesses to improve (your PowerPoint presentations could be much better), and even things you just need to write off (you’re not going to be a rock star).
And, as Jason points out on pages 162 and following, feedback doesn’t just come from other people. It also comes from your environment (“the fridge smells”), your body (“too tired to work”), or the performance of your retirement account (“diversification pays!”).
Exercises (modified from pp. 169-170):
1. Consider two projects, one in your work life and the other in your personal life. Put marks on your calendar for one month from today, three months from today, and one year from today. Write a few sentences explaining the following for each project:
a. Where is this project right now?
b. Where do I want this project to be in one month? Three months? One year?
c. What resources do I need in order to reach these milestones?
d. What kind of feedback will tell me I am making appropriate progress?
e. With whom can I partner to trade feedback on these projects?
If you would be so kind, please answer in the comments. If it’s sensitive, don’t worry about putting the “personal” project in the comments.
Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute, a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a regular contributor to Forbes.com, LearnLiberty, EconLog, and Kosmos.