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How to Improve at Work When You're Not Getting Feedback

TIGNUM Thoughts

May 16th, 2020
By Brian Wade

Imagine working all day on a project or assignment, putting all of your energy and focus into your best work. You deliver the final product to your boss or team, hoping that you’ll get a quick review and some much-deserved feedback and acknowledgement for your effort. Instead, everyone simply takes the report, walks away, and goes about their business. You leave the interaction feeling ignored and confused, wondering why there was such little engagement or feedback. How do you move forward, not knowing if you've made an impact or not?

Before joining TIGNUM, I worked with U.S. Special Forces to help train and prepare their teams for missions and tasks. During a couple of particularly grueling trainings, candidates would show up at a location after traveling on foot all day, then hand in a report to their training instructors and be given very little, or even zero, feedback. They would then have to go out and do it all again the next day, with no real indication of their performance or how best to prepare for the next day. Would they be motivated or deflated going into their next training?

As beneficial as feedback is in helping us to grow, we often rely heavily on external sources for feedback. We seek it from our leadership, our peers, and even family. But what happens when these external sources are silent, and we receive no feedback? This can diminish our Performance Resilience, causing us to question everything we did, casting doubt and judgment on our work. We may start to change the way we do things entirely, thinking that big adjustments must be made, even though what we were doing may have actually been the best way. We are sure that we failed in the task, that we did everything wrong, and we ruminate on these perceived mistakes and failures and allow them to carry over into our next project. This spinning and spiraling of thoughts is rarely high impact.

A great strategy to avoid this is to create your own feedback system, such as a simple 3-2-1 method. At the end of the day, find a few moments for reflection and ask yourself:

  • _“What are 3 things I did well today?”
  • _“What are 2 things I could have done better or differently?”
  • _“What is 1 thing I learned for the future?”

When you answer these questions, you provide your own feedback and build a framework for growth and building Performance Resilience. You give yourself credit for the good things, and also identify some areas for improvement. In the absence of direct external feedback, you now have some information to help you move forward for the next day or next project. As you answer these questions, focus on actions instead of outcomes. Maybe you asked some great questions in that big meeting, or maybe you did a great job of being prepared and showing up with great energy. Actions like these are controllable and repeatable in the future; outcomes are much harder to replicate. For the Special Forces Operators, it helped keep them from overanalyzing their performances and to make better adjustments for the next task.

The 3-2-1 strategy is a great way to end your day and prepare for the next day. It can give you a clear method for reflection and help increase your Performance Resilience by building a framework for growth during challenges.

Other Thoughts

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