Let’s Grow Together

How to use feedback to achieve mastery

Mar 28 2019 · 3 minute read

In our last post, we talked about why it can be hard to give feedback. By creating a psychologically safe environment and framing feedback as an opportunity to satisfy the drive for mastery, we provide the metaphorical sunshine and water that enables growth within our teams. However, as any green thumb knows, you can’t just put seeds in the ground and expect your plants to flourish. An experienced gardener will regularly till the soil, check its pH, and remove the weeds to give their plants the best chance to thrive. Similarly, a team might have a healthy mindset about feedback, but in order to effectively help individuals on their mastery journeys, the group must also establish feedback-focused routines.

In Great At Work, Morten Hansen summarizes the results of a 5-year study designed to understand top performers. The book details 7 practices that people can follow to maximize performance. At Grow, we’re focused on one of those practices — incorporating feedback to help people excel at their jobs. In a chapter titled, “Don’t just learn, loop”, he explains how to master your own work by deliberately practicing the relevant skills and gathering feedback via the learning loop.

Hansen shares two key observations for how people can improve at work: “they discard isolated practice in favor of learning as they work”, and “they also spend just a few minutes each day learning”. This philosophy can be applied to all types of roles. For example, a salesperson would never ask a prospect for a practice pitch meeting, but they can still try new techniques and gauge their effectiveness. By soliciting additional feedback from their teammates, they can further understand how to improve as a salesperson. A short debrief after the meeting might be all they need.

Hansen also dispels the belief that deliberate practice is incompatible with the modern workplace (i.e. it’s a useful technique when practicing the piano, but you can’t deliberately practice running effective meetings). To “practice” a skill at work, it’s crucial to identify the foundational elements of the skill you’re working to improve. If your goal is to run more effective meetings, ask for feedback about your time management and organizational skills. Continuous feedback allows you to harness the wisdom of your teams to rapidly improve skills relevant to all aspects of your role.

The learning loop is an important part of mastering any skill. Grow helps make feedback a habit on your team so that everyone can loop more often and more effectively. Even if you’re starting a garden in a rich, open field, a well-crafted routine will help maximize your yield when it’s time to harvest. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to approach giving feedback.