Focusing on trends in feedback

If you are like most people in most places, useful feedback is rarely given and generally shows up only when you ask for it. And, asking for it can be a deeply uncomfortable experience.

Getting started on the journey requires us to embrace the obvious – there is always going to be room for improvement and we might as well know what it is. But, “exercise well” and “eat healthy” are obvious too. And, yet, it takes time and effort to embrace them. The obvious things are often very hard to do and recognizing that helps make the process easier.

But, what do we do when we are actually in a room with folks sharing things they wish we’d done better? Consider ignoring individual pieces of feedback and focus on trends. There are two reasons to do so.

First, while individual pieces of feedback may be useful from time to time, they are generally noisy in isolation. Aggregating feedback into trends instead enables us to focus on lines, not dots. When we see the same idea show up from multiple folks, we can be sure that working on it will be valuable.

Second, focusing on trends takes away the personal aspect of feedback. When we look for trends, we elevate our focus from individuals to our audience. And, if most of our audience believes we need to speak faster, then speak faster we must.

A focus on trends has made it easier for me to get comfortable asking for feedback. The side benefit of this comfort is that asking for and receiving feedback becomes less of an event the more you do it.