Nobody gets everything right all of the time. We all make mistakes, misunderstand things, explain things poorly or simply forget to do things. We all experience breakdowns in communication or make wild assumptions that everything is right when in fact, it’s all wrong. Feedback is what closes the loop.
Learning is a process of trial and error, be it learning physical skills or new concepts and ideas. At every stage we are testing ourselves against our expected responses and gathering feedback accordingly. But whilst feedback may be useful, indeed, essential for our learning, it’s not necessarily something that we enjoy and it’s rarely something that we seek out. Worse, it’s often something we dismiss or fail to use objectively in our learning.
And rest assured, i’m as guilty as everyone else: sometimes by selectively failing to hear the bad and focussing on the good or, more often, by simply failing to go out and ask for it.
It’s never been truer that people who are agile, who can adapt and learn, are the people who will be most successful in today’s knowledge based economy. People who are able to flex, to grow, to synthesise knowledge and skills to apply to new problems and to rapidly iterate solutions, these are the people who will gain momentum and, ultimately, succeed.
The increasingly mainstream position of coaching and mentoring recognises that we all need a different perspective. It’s not that our own intuition and ideas aren’t good: it’s just that we can often benefit from a mirror that we can hold up against ourselves. If we build enough trust and disclosure into the relationship with a coach or mentor, it can be a valuable mechanism for learning and growth.
When we are designing learning solutions, i often find that the areas neglected most heavily are setting the context up front and building in time for reflection in the middle. It’s much the same with feedback. We rarely dedicate time into our busy lives to gather it and, if we gather it, we don’t always build in time to reflect on it and plan to do things differently. There is, naturally, a tendency not to ask for feedback because, frankly, it’s sometimes painful to dredge things up. But often it can be the foundation for building renewed strength into relationships, for widening our perspective, for learning and growth. And, of course, sometimes it’s not all as bad as we think it might be!