They say that feedback is the breakfast of champions which is probably one of those glib statements that we hear from time to time and never really stop to think about.
I am a fan of motorbike racing and it never ceases to amaze me how the top riders understand how grip levels change through the course of a race. They adjust as their tyres go off, or come in. They do this extraordinary thing through the feedback they receive, through the seat of their pants, through the feedback from the handle bars and a number of exquisitely tuned sensory inputs. It may seem superhuman but it is all based on feedback. In this example feedback is always positive and the absence of feedback would make quick lap times impossible.
Feedback doesn’t always feel so beneficial. We can’t avoid feedback. If no one buys our product, that is feedback. If no one reads our blog, that is feedback. If people fall asleep in our meetings, or don’t attend our socials or don’t vote in our referendums, that is all feedback. If no one replies to our job vacancies, that is feedback. If we are making no money, or if we are making tons of money that is all feedback. We can’t avoid it. We shouldn’t avoid it and it takes great courage to be able to receive feedback without becoming defensive and then to turn it into a positive outcome.
Just recently I have had a number of clients open themselves up to feedback from their teams, both formal and informal and their reactions have been interesting. Generally the initial reactions have been defensive, either denying the validity of the feedback or finding excuses for the perceived criticism. I think this is a natural reaction but we need to be better than that and be able to move beyond that initial feeling to understand what is really going on so that we can make the appropriate adjustments. I take my hat off to the organisations who actively seek feedback and use it to catalyse change for the better.
Clearly feedback from the team is only one aspect. What if we could get proper feedback from our clients too? Of course we will be getting feedback when they stop buying from us but what if we were really trying to understand how well we were doing before our customers voted with their feet? Wouldn’t that enable us to build a company that really delivered for those we are here to serve?
Have you ever noticed when you receive really great service there is usually some kind of feedback mechanism but when the service is so poor you want to let them know there is rarely a mechanism to let you do so? Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Rockefeller Habits 5 and 6 are:
5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities.
6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data.
It is obvious really but I know many companies do not actively seek out this information. It takes great courage to ask for and receive honest feedback but how else do you intend to build a great company for your people and your clients?
Feedback may well be the breakfast of champions but it doesn’t always taste so good. But if you have the courage to ask for it and understand what it is telling you then you have the knowledge you need to understand what you need to change to really scale up.
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