When someone says, “Can I give you some feedback?”, how does it make you feel? Do you feel excited, in anticipation of a gift? Or does a little nervous knot form in your stomach?
Have you noticed how much feedback is focused on perceived weaknesses? Perhaps that’s why so few of us enjoy either giving or receiving it.
Don’t get me wrong, feedback that helps people strengthen weaker areas can be vitally important. It’s no good having a great service or product, for example, if your customer service skills stink. But, in a world where, research suggests, 80% of the messages we receive are negative, we’re perhaps underestimating the value and power of positive feedback; feedback that highlights strengths and encourages people to take them to new heights.
Beethoven, it seems, struggled to follow the normal conventions in music, which, some have suggested, is an indication he was not great at maths. Does that mean he should have focused more of his energy on developing his maths skills? Some understanding of maths is important in music (the ability to count springs to mind) but perhaps Beethoven’s limitations are exactly why his music transcended the form in which it was written.
What about Alfred Mosher Butts, who invented Scrabble? He was by his own admission, not very good at spelling. Did that limit his achievement?
When we focus on picking people up on their weaknesses, we risk overlooking the fact that outstanding success is normally achieved, not by focusing on those, but by focusing on what people are good at and enjoy.
Constant criticism can be draining, disheartening and discouraging. Whilst positive feedback can be the fuel that energises people, gives them the determination to do even better and which, ultimately, I believe, drives most success.
So, here’s my radical thought for the week: Perhaps the time to focus on weaknesses is only when they limit someone’s ability to fully utilise their strengths? What do you think? Crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time…
p.s. www.pen48.co.uk is a new website I’ve developed with two others to promote creative writing and literacy (25% of subscriptions will go directly to charities that suppport world literacy projects). If you’d like to practise positive feedback, why not take a look at the entries in our first short story competition. You can vote for your favourites by liking them and that enables you to leave feedback too. (You have until the 11th July to get your votes in.)