Feedback is implicated in the crime of creating burnout. Bad feedback and no feedback prevail over the smaller—but more powerful—sibling, good feedback. The challenge of our lives today is that everyone is too busy to provide unsolicited good feedback to others. Feedback in the form of positive affirmation is a powerful antidote to burnout. Even critical but fair feedback is vitally important to personal growth and development.
Finding ways to get the right feedback is critical to both success and preventing burnout. In Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Experience, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool make it clear that, to be a top performer, you need more than practice: you need purposeful practice that involves feedback. Getting timely, accurate, and actionable feedback can be the difference between being world class and being stuck at the same level of performance. It’s the difference between 10,000 hours of practice and one hour of practice 10,000 times. (Repeating the same hour of practice without learning anything new.)
The most amazing thing about finding the feedback you need to improve and prevent burnout is that it frequently is as simple as asking for it. With some exceptions, if you ask for feedback, someone will be glad to oblige you. The simple truth of the matter is that negative, critical feedback can be painful, and we don’t want to be hurt, so we don’t ask for the feedback. Before we can find good feedback, we’ve got to start with having any feedback. When we ask for feedback, we have to be willing to work through any pain it causes to find the truth.
When we ask for feedback, we have to be willing to work through any pain it causes to find the truth.
Separating good feedback from bad feedback is more difficult. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg relates how Febreze was blown off course by some bad feedback. The way the product is marketed today is a result of a change in perspective after realizing that the initial feedback they received was bad. This was a costly mistake, but it’s not one that we must repeat in our lives. We get to evaluate the feedback we obtain to determine if it is good feedback or not.
In the Space Shuttle, there were three flight computers. When any one of them stopped matching the other two, it would be kicked out and only the two matching computers would be used for the rest of the calculations. The two computers corroborated each other. We can do the same thing as we try to discern which feedback is accurate and useful—and which feedback will lead us down the wrong path. When getting feedback from others, we must be careful not to silence the one person speaking truth. At the same time, it’s appropriate to ask ourselves whether the feedback matches what others would say.
Getting good feedback then is as simple as 1, 2, 3:
Recognize that feedback is essential. You can’t improve, grow, or avoid burnout without proper feedback.
Ask for feedback. All too often, we don’t prompt others to provide the feedback we need, and, as a result, they don’t provide it.
Confirm feedback. Triangulate feedback between multiple people to determine whether the feedback you’re receiving is good or bad.
Rob and Terri Bogue are leaders, speakers, educators, and co-authors of Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery. Rob has been a business owner and consultant for the past 12 years, and Terri has over 30 years experience in the healthcare industry. They’ve gathered knowledge from numerous disciplines, read stories from the anecdotal to the evidence-based, and put it all together in a way that anyone can understand. You can learn more about their book, the online course, and burnout at ExtinguishBurnout.com. Follow them on Twitter @RobBogue and @BogueTerri.