When’s the last time someone pointed out what you were doing right? Not just “good job.” I mean, specifically and in detail something you did really, really well.
Ok. And when’s the last time someone pointed out an error you made, or a change you might consider, or ways to improve what you’ve done? Probably 30 seconds ago.
I believe that most feedback comes from good intention. They think they’re helping when they point out what’s wrong, because that way you can be better.
The problem, as Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall wrote in their HBR cover story this spring, “The Feedback Fallacy,” is that traditional feedback is flawed. Deeply. And it doesn’t do what you think it will do.
“People don’t need feedback,” the authors write. “They need attention to what they do best.”
You wouldn’t believe the pushback I hear on this. People LOVE their criticism. We so want to believe we’re right about what needs fixing. And maybe we are!
Part of the problem is we dive into criticism too soon—right at the tender moment when we’re risking new ideas, new efforts. And criticism can seriously tamp down your creativity.
But part of it is just that we assume that what’s working is so obvious we don’t need to pay attention to it.
That’s incorrect. Because often we DON’T know what we’re doing right. We’re all so focused on not messing up! We’re out there tiptoeing around landmines, which ties up a lot of our bandwidth, making it hard to do, well, much of anything else.
How helpful is positive feedback? Maybe at least just as helpful as negative? Maybe two times, five times as effective? Try again.
“Positive attention is 30x more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team,” say Buckingham and Goodall.
Think this is some special snowflake stuff? Some kind of everyone-gets-a-trophy tactic that panders to weakness and a need for acceptance?
I’ve seen what happens when you take a group of smart, successful professionals of all stripes who’ve spent a lifetime avoiding criticism, and put them in a room with new ground rules and expectations, and no fear of criticism. .
What they create blows me away, every time.
I was so excited about the HBR article because it confirms what I have seen and learned as a Gateless trained facilitator. Gateless is a methodology, an approach to creative work (read: any work), designed to quiet the critic so that you can tap your own potential—for creativity, big ideas, all of it.
We write to a prompt and share that work out loud—and what you hear back from the group is what is specifically working and why. It retrains the mind to see what’s working in others’ work, so you can see it in your own. It challenges habitual ways of thinking, and can catapult your work forward.
Want to know what it sounds like?
My fellow Gateless teacher Becky Karush has a podcast that’s based on the Gateless method. It’s called Read to Me: The Podcast to Listen for What We Love, and each week she takes a piece of work, ranging from song lyrics to classic works to modern authors, and shares a short passage, and then does a Gateless “read” on it.
This week features a very fun mashup of Taylor Swift and our colleague Cass McCrory, a digital marketing strategist who shared something quite personal from her own life.
The reason I point it out to you now is because Cass wrote it in about 15 minutes in my Pop Up Story Salon in NYC in August. She wrote it, read it, and we all fell in love. You will too (listen to that episode here).
It just goes to how what can happen when you give yourself TIME to write and ATTENTION to what you do best.
Try it today. Go around and point out specifically what people are doing well. All day. All week if you like. Then, see what happens.
P.S. Want a taste of Gateless Writing? Come to 30 Days on the Page. Every day I send you an email with an audio link. Click it, listen to the prompt, and write. You don’t have to worry about a thing. I even tell you when to stop! Seriously–it could be just the spark you need. And it’s just $1/day.