Create Insights Instead of Giving Feedback

“….But the most helpful advice is not a painting. It is instead a box of paints and a set of brushes. Here, the best team leaders seem to say, take these paints, those brushes, and see what you think you can do with them. What do you see, from your vantage point? What picture can you paint?” from Nine Lies About Work

A few weeks ago, we talked about how neuro research shows us that for learning to happen, insights have to be created. We talk a lot about giving and receiving feedback in the workplace and how necessary it is.   But what if it is more important to create insights than to give positive or negative feedback?

What’s the difference? Feedback is about you telling people what you think and giving them the path forward from that in most cases.  Insights are people discerning what they think.

Research shows us that people are more likely to act on what they think not what you think because insight is brain food which creates dopamine which makes us feel good. (When was the last time traditional feedback gave you a shot of dopamine?)

So as a leader, creating insights may be the better way to get the results you need rather than trying to give feedback.

How do you do it though? Our previous post suggests some ways. There are also some helpful ways in Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.   Their “insights” suggest focusing on the 1) past 2) present and 3) future and all revolved around asking good questions, not giving good answers*.

  1. Start with the Present: Ask, “What three things are working right now?” For more on this, especially when utilizing it for change management purposes, read here.
  2. Revisit the Past: Ask, “When you had problems/situations like this in the past, what did you do that worked?”
  3. Finish with the Future: Ask, “What do you already know you need to do? What do you know already works?”

My little girl loves to paint and draw. Often, she asks me to help her draw something. We’ve been on a heart drawing kick lately. The first few times, I’ve drawn a heart on a page or a canvas for her to color or paint in. But then I stopped doing it and just left her to it. What I discovered was that her own hearts were better than anything I could have ever helped her create.  I just need to provide the tools and she can do the rest better than I can.

How are you providing the right tools and asking the right questions in order to give people the opportunity to grow?

*Nine Lies About Work is an insightful book linked to a lot of research. The way they phrase the nine lies, though, may just be a matter of semantics, so don’t let the titles of the lies fool you. Read the context in the chapters. In this case, you may be giving feedback in the form of creating insights.  Don’t take this to mean you need to scratch giving feedback. Just make sure you do it in a way that leads to learning and engagement instead of in a way that leads to disengagement. For more, read the book on how to do this.

Mary Ila Ward

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