Dr. David Rock: Time to Get Feedback Right

By Aaron Kinne

“Feedback.” The very word gets our defenses up and sends shivers down our spine. Because let’s face it … no one likes getting feedback from managers – especially when they all too frequently botch the process.

According to Dr. David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, the current state of feedback is broken, and nothing short of a revolution – not an evolution – is needed to fix it. David noted in his powerful WorkHuman 2018 keynote, “Feedback either does nothing, or makes things worse.”

He observed that today, managers dislike the process so much, they need to be rewarded and cajoled into giving feedback. And because giving feedback is so unpleasant, managers take the easy path – they don’t give feedback at all.

David outlined his three tenets of, “What we have wrong about feedback” …

  1. We hate feedback – What we actually hate is unsolicited It gets our defenses up (threat response). But the truth is, when people don’t get feedback, they get anxious. So there is a place for feedback; just not the unsolicited variety.
  2. It’s best to focus on errors – Managers have been ingrained to focus on correcting shortcomings in their employees. And while this might have some value, what is really important is telling people what they should be doing.
  3. Feedback must be giver-driven – Instead, teach everyone in the organization to start asking for feedback. Both sides will feel less threatened – and less anxious. As David bluntly put it, “Stop giving feedback.”

David concluded his talk by summarizing the key benefits of moving away from the giver-driven model, to one where employees throughout an organization are asking for feedback:

  1. Asking is less threatening for both sides.
  2. People can ask for feedback as often as they like.
  3. Employees can solicit from multiple people throughout the organization, and get a more valuable – and accurate – perspective on their performance.
  4. By asking, employees can get the specific feedback they need.

David took questions from the audience. But before asking a question, the audience member was asked to give David feedback on his presentation. A fitting end to an enlightening pre-conference keynote.

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Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Globoforce.