This is a video excerpt from The Freethinking Leader Coalition, unpacking the fifth lie in Marcus and Ashley’s upcoming book, Nine Lies about Work. To view the full video, read book excerpts, and engage with the authors, join here by pre-ordering the book. To learn more about The Freethinking Leader Coalition, click here.
We’ve been told over, and over, and over again that if you want someone to excel, you need to give them feedback. Companies have embraced this idea so entirely that courses on how to give and receive feedback and apps that allow you to constantly rate your peers have become a fixture in the world of work. And the theory underpinning this is that we will all get better if we have the benefit of feedback.
That belief is based upon three theories, and unfortunately, all of them are false.
False Belief #1: I am a source of truth about you.
In order to believe that my feedback will somehow make you better, we have to accept that I am a source of truth about you. That I can tell you if you lack strategic thinking or that you don’t have executive presence – that I must tell you these things, because if I didn’t, you wouldn’t know. And then you could never get better.
Here’s why this belief is false: because humans are unreliable raters of other humans. I am not a source of truth about you, I can only ever be a source of truth about myself and my own feelings. I can’t tell you that you lack strategic thinking; but I can say that I’m confused. I can’t tell you that you don’t have executive presence; but I can tell you that I’m bored. I am a reliable rater of my own experience and intentions, but I’m not a reliable rater or assessor of you, on anything.
False Belief #2: Learning is a process of filling up an empty space.
It is also a commonly-held belief that the way people learn is by taking input from the outside world and filling themselves up with it. That in order to really understand and grow, we must fill ourselves with facts and opinions from the outside world.
As it turns out, learning is much less about putting something in that isn’t there and much more about manifesting something that is already there, within you. Most learning is insight – it’s generating recognition from within.
False Belief #3: Excellence can be defined in advance.
You’ve heard this from me before, but so many of us think that we can look at excellence in anything – independent of the person who is actually being excellent – and write it down so we have a model to which we can compare people.
Yet if you look at excellence in the real world, you don’t see everyone doing it the same way. Excellence is inextricably wrapped up in the person being excellent. Even something as seemingly basic as free-throwing in basketball; if you were to write down a model of how to be excellent at free throws, I highly doubt you would include “throw it granny style” as a method. And yet, when he retired, Rick Barry was the best free-thrower in the history of the NBA.
There are many more reasons why negative feedback is completely unhelpful to growth and excellence, which you can read about when Nine Lies about Work comes out in April – but if you want to learn the truth about what does create growth and performance, join the Freethinking Leader Coalition today.