Ignorance Is Not Bliss
Have you ever looked in the mirror and discovered a little piece of spinach stuck in your teeth and then thought, “Has that been there since lunch? I’ve been talking to people all afternoon. Why didn’t anybody tell me about it?”
If somebody had told you earlier that there was spinach in your teeth, it would have been an embarrassing moment; however, it would have been less painful than the thought that the spinach had been there during all of your conversations and meetings. Ultimately you would be grateful that the person cared enough to let you know, because it can be awkward for them too. And even if the spinach went away before you saw it, that doesn’t change the fact that everybody else experienced you with it.
Feedback Saves Us from Embarrassment
As in the example above, there might be something in our conduct, behavior or mannerisms that is distracting, annoying or even offensive. It might be something as simple as the heavy use of filler words in our speech, such as, “like”, “um” or “you know”. However, it might be more serious like believing that you are a topic expert when in reality those around you find your knowledge and skills lacking.
These potential embarrassments might be caused by a lack of awareness. Or in some instances, there might be a cultural gap. Regardless we need feedback from others to help us improve. Just like working on your throwing technique or learning another language, feedback is key to helping us improve, which makes us look better.
Feedback Helps Us Focus on What Matters Most
In a Harvard Business Review article, the authors noted that in a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, “Eighty percent of the 1,335 respondents said their boss has a significant weakness that everyone knows and discusses covertly with each other, but not directly with their manager.” Regardless of whether you know or want to know what others think, they still have their thoughts and opinions. You can choose to learn about others’ perspectives or try to move forward with little guidance on what might matter most.
Most of us will admit that we have room to grow, and we often even have a sense of where we should grow. We also tend to have a sense of what our strengths are; however, we sometimes think we are stronger in an area than others do, or that strength may actually be holding us back in some way.
Because we all have areas where we could improve, it helps to get the perspective of others to make sure we focus on the areas that will have the biggest impact. In particular, getting your manager’s view on what your next best development action should be will likely serve you better than going with your gut. Your manager’s broader perspective and deep experience could save you from spending time in an area with little return.
Ultimately feedback matters. When it comes to our growth and development as professionals, ignorance is not bliss. It is a roadblock. Feedback matters because without knowing the perspectives of those around us, we could be walking around with metaphorical spinach in our teeth or blindly pursuing what we think might most help us succeed but is actually of little consequence. Feedback matters because it puts you in the driver’s seat with a view of the road conditions and your destination. You still choose your path, you just do so from a much better vantage point, with a much greater likelihood of quickly reaching your destination.