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Needing (and Reading) Feedback III

Related to earlier entries in FC Now, Ben McConnell challenges a correspondent who suggests that asking for feedback is a sign of weakness.

"There is no failure, only lack of feedback," he writes. "It takes courage to ask for feedback."

While I agree somewhat with the correspondent, who offers, "Whenever I'm asked for feedback, I get a sense that the company is insecure," I think it's a matter of frequency and intensity. Occasionally — and honestly — asking for feedback can be extremely instructive and productive. But if you — or your organization — is always actively seeking feedback ("How'm I doing, how'm I doing, how'm I doing, huh?") I can see how that could be interpreted as lacking self-confidence.

When I seek feedback, I do so periodically — and with a determined goal in mind. At the same time, I maintain an open invitation for feedback and input at any time. I think that balance is important.

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  • ATT

    ASKING for feedback is great - it gives you alternate points of view. ACTING on every bit of feedback is almost always a sign of weakness -you're swaying with the wind and unable to make decisions on your own. Two pieces of advice:
    1. Be specific about the TYPE of feedback you want.
    2. Pay attention ONLY to the feedback that takes you where you want to go.

  • Chris O'Leary

    The idea that asking for feedback = weakness is just the latest manifestation of the old industrial, push-based marketing model that has been widely discredited.

    This thinking reminds me of the logic that drives people who think that the key to success in business is confidence. That people will buy from you if you look and act confident.

    That it's better to look good than to feel good.

    I recently worked for a startup that was "led" by a guy who shared this ethic. All I can tell you is that while we may have looked confident, the reality was that nobody was buying what we were selling.

    Maybe if my boss had talked a little less and listened a little more, we'd have sold a few copies of our software (and I'd still be there).

  • Ben McConnell

    What is perhaps lacking in this context is... context.

    Everyone has their own, subjective measure of how much is too much. While your personal view of feedback frequency is "occassionally," what does that mean? Does your personal measure apply to all customers?

    The best way to answer this question is to... ask your customers. "We want to ensure that we're doing the best work possible. This means asking for your feedback. How often may we ask you to answer 1-2 questions about our performance?"

    * Never
    * Twice per year
    * As often as you'd like
    * I'll tell you when I'm ready

    Perhaps customers could schedule times they would like a company to ask for their feedback based on their usage and experience with the company.

    The lesson here: Don't assume. Ask.