Why does this keep happening?
What do you really want? To get better? Or to get a pat on the back?
For those of us who truly want to get better, this is a very important question. And, one that I would argue doesn’t occur to most of us.
It didn’t to me.
If I hear “good job” one more time…..
I recently worked on a project with two other people. For this assignment, we had to create a case study that started from a student’s email regarding feedback. The student had complained that he felt like the feedback he was receiving in class was not very helpful and was not much more than people saying “good job”.
Upon building out this case study, one of my teammates presented an article where someone had developed a weighted, point-system type of feedback process. Lower level feedback received the lowest points and higher level feedback received the highest points. And, it was required that you give feedback at all levels.
This made me think about how often we say we want feedback, yet we don’t ensure that we are getting feedback that is actually useful for helping us improve. We don’t ask for help from the right people and we don’t set up the systems that will lead to our improvement.
We instead strive for lower level comments that are mostly for encouragement and validation.
What’s the deal?
It can seem hard for us to ask for feedback, to find someone who is willing to give us honest feedback, and hard to know who is the right person to ask. I realized that even in my own class discussions, we rarely offer much more than nice, encouraging comments.
For example, if I want to become a better swimmer, posting a picture of me doing laps in a pool or updating my status as having completed a swim that day – isn’t the same as asking for feedback on how to improve. That would instead be me asking for pats on the back – aka validation. You could also call this something nicer, like encouragement. Don’t get me wrong. I think there is value in encouragement and validation. But, what I am thinking is that sometimes we aren’t realizing the difference when it comes to the things we say we truly want to improve.
What do you want?
An influencer I follow once told a story about someone bragging about having a large number of followers. His response was “so what?” He asked “what are you going to do with all of that attention?” And, that’s the real question. If you are always just looking for likes but you have no real intention or improvement strategy in mind, then you are really just after validation and pats on the back. And, that might feel good for the short term, but truly improving takes intention and asking the right people and getting the right critical push to get better.
Changing starts with recognizing where we just need validation and where we need genuine feedback for genuine progress.
This article has been edited from it’s original version on LinkedIn.