In our last post, we talked about why feedback in professional development can be hard. 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.
Great At Work
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. Let’s look at one of those practices: using feedback in the learning loop.
How To Use Feedback in the Learning Loop
At Grow, we’re focused on the practice of incorporating feedback to help people excel at their jobs. In a chapter titled, “Don’t just learn, loop”, Hansen 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.
How To Use Feedback To Achieve Mastery
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.
How to Use Feedback Effectively
Sometimes, when you ask for feedback on something, you don’t get enough. Sometimes, you get so much you don’t know where to start. There are several ways you can use feedback in the learning loop more effectively. Here are a few important tips.
Collect It All
When you ask for feedback, make sure that you collect it from various sources, and start collecting it all, by just gathering it from all your sources.
Filter for Relevance
The next thing you need to do is filter through the feedback you get. There will always be various types of feedback. Some feedback will be both relevant and useful, but not something you can take action on now – so set it aside in a future improvement folder. Focus on the feedback that is relevant, useful, and can be tackled now.
Feedback only helps if you apply it. Sometimes, that may mean going back to the drawing board and reworking your project or product. Use all the relevant feedback you have received to make changes. Once this is done,, ask for a second round of feedback, so that you can be sure you’ve addressed the issues, and identify any further changes that need to be made. Feedback and the learning loop never really end. You will never achieve perfection. But you can always keep working towards it, and every round of feedback and revision will get you closer.
Find a Mentor
Sometimes, just getting sporadic feedback from your colleagues is not enough. Finding a mentor you trust, who has achieved a higher level of mastery than you have, can be a very valuable addition to your learning loop.
Mentors who have many years of hands-on experience in your field will have been through this process themselves, many times.They will also have many years of hands-on experience that has given them tricks, tips and tools you can’t learn in any class or textbook. Which means they can teach you skills you didn’t even know you needed. A good mentor is willing to share their knowledge, and to provide honest feedback on your work. They won’t always tell you what you want to hear, but they will help you to become better at whatever you do. Take your projects to your mentor after several rounds of peer feedback and revisions to find out what their professional opinion is.
A Never Ending Process
The truth is you never really master anything. You can get close, but there will always be something new to learn. . They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. That’s about 1,250 eight hour workdays, or nearly three and a half years. There’s no need to rush your progress. As long as you embrace the learning loop and are working towards improving your knowledge and perfecting your skills, you’re on the right track. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to approach giving feedback.