Feedback – a force for intimidation or good at work?

Jack Dorsey Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Jack Dorsey
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The most gut-wrenching question anyone can be asked at work is: “Would you like some feedback?’ We all know that the right answer is: “Yes, of course, I’d be delighted”, which is the one we almost always give. The internal dialogue, however, is usually very different and along the lines: “I’d really rather you didn’t. It’s likely to be critical and will probably hurt. Leave me alone!”

There is evidence that when you feel emotional pain, the same areas of the brain are activated as when you feel physical pain[1]. So it’s easy to understand why people are naturally reluctant to open themselves up to potentially critical comment, however beneficial it might be. And if the success of an enterprise is dependent on the performance of its leader(s) then it surely is important.

It is therefore gratifying to find a high profile business leader that has bitten the bullet and decided to use the power of personal feedback to help improve the business[2]. Ex CEO of Twitter and now founder and CEO of Square, Jack Dorsey, recently sent a Google Doc to each of Square’s 800 staff asking for anonymous feedback, visible to everyone inside the company, requesting that people should:

Write whatever you want… (I want to learn) where I’ve done well, where I’ve done poorly, and where I’ve completely screwed things up.”

He received 500 replies, with a general theme that the company needed more focus.

What this demonstrates is that not only is it easy to get good feedback from staff but that it’s also easy to involve them in the bigger issues all organisations face. In addition, it allows business leaders to tap into the ‘wisdom of crowds’; an increasingly recognised powerful source of ideas.

The other thing this demonstrates is that modern technology banishes forever the objection that it’s difficult to get good feedback once you’re at the top.

  • Interested? Good leaders probably should be. Are you?

Jack Dorsey may not be your ‘cup of tea’. Indeed, some have suggested that he is a bit self-absorbed, he was sacked as CEO of Twitter. And he is a billionaire. However, that doesn’t mean he’s bereft of good ideas.

[1] Alan Fogel, 19 April 2012, ‘Restorative embodied self-awareness as a pathway to well-being’, published in Psychology Today.

[2]   Austin Carr, August 11, 2014, ‘Back To Square One’ , The Internet of Things. http://www.fastcompany.com/3033412/back-to-square-one

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