How asking for feedback saved this blog

If Golom had only asked Bilbo this riddle, maybe he could have kept his damn Precious.

I am always asked for, but never really wanted?
I am often avoided when needed and ignored when warranted?
Both my presence and absence hold the power to determine fate.
What am I?

All you HR people out there, stop waving your hands in the air, I’m not going to pick you. Geesh, no wonder they won’t let you sit at the table.

The answer is feedback.

Ah yes, the elusive feedback. We want it, but aren’t always happy with what we get, whether it’s because it’s not enough or not what we expected.

Managers avoid giving it when there’s a problem and don’t think it’s necessary when things are going well. Similarly, employees don’t feel that they need to provide feedback – they assume their managers can read their mind.

Feedback has the power to influence whether someone improves, fails, stays, leaves, smiles, cries, or writes a blog post.

Is it really that big a deal? Shouldn’t our employees be big boys and girls and learn how to self-soothe? Why do they need their manager to pat them on the bag or kick the in them arse all the time?

Why indeed.

Let me tell you something about the power of feedback, in a non-work context.

Over the past year or so I have been struggling with finding my place in the universe. I know, that sounds grandiose, but I don’t mean it in some existential way, I just mean asking the questions about what I want, what I want to do, what I’m willing to do. This included my work, my interests, and even this blog.

In fact, all this introspection started because I heard an advertisement for a lottery and the tagline was something like “what would you do with millions”. I listened to the different dreams and then wondered what would I do if I had carte-blanche.

You know what? Beyond the mundane pay off my mortgage, go on a trip, buy some clothes…I came up blank.

I had, as Anne Shirley would say, “no scope of imagination”. Basically, I could not come up with a dream, a passion to pursue, a hobby to explore….I was creativity-less. I started to panic when I realized that I might just be living in black and white.

So I read, I wrote lists, I did some soul-searching, but I really felt like I had developed a filter so thick and effective that I was no longer able to see my true self. I needed help.

I put it out there to a few people close to me, whose opinions I value and honesty I could count on, and asked them…what do you think are my strengths, what do you see me potentially doing (either as a career or a hobby). I was worried that they would come back with the same results as me: “I don’t know” or worse, tell me that who I was today was exactly who they saw me as.

Their answers were overwhelmingly supportive, somewhat surprising, and very encouraging.

And maybe because I put this out there, I received unsolicited feedback that was actually on par with what my supporters gave me. Or maybe I was just more open to hearing it.

The common thing I was told was that my “writing” was my strength, my interest, and my potential.

Oddly enough this is not something that I came up with on my own. I like to write, mostly because it’s a socially acceptable way of enjoying the sound of my own voice, but also because it helps me understand and make links among the various parts of my life.

To hear that others think I’m good at this is unexpected, but welcome feedback. I know that sounds like false modesty, but it’s not. I have a terrible habit of under-estimating myself so this was motivating and encouraging. It hasn’t given me delusions of grandeur or unrealistic expectations – it’s reassured me that maybe others like the sound of my voice too.

I desperately need a creative outlet in my life and writing is one possible way of achieving this.

So if you find yourself wondering whether providing feedback is worth it, consider that this post, and possibly the blog, would not have existed without it. And to me that is truly precious.

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2 thoughts on “How asking for feedback saved this blog

  1. I’m so glad to hear this, Julie. I enjoy your posts and admire the tone you’ve cultivated here…approachable, entertaining, informative. It takes some writing chops to pull all that off. Kudos!

    • Thanks Bernadine – I was getting dangerously close to writing only what I thought potential readers would want to read. I didn’t realize how much that would impact my voice. If I can’t get a kick out of what I write, then who will?

      Thanks for your continual support.

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