Rocky Road

Do you like ice cream?

If you like ice cream you really like it. I had a friend – a wispy thin woman – who kept several quarts in her freezer. Not one or two: several. Generous as most Southern women are you couldn’t leave her house without being fed something delicious and homemade.

But not her ice cream. That was her thing.

I was thinking about feedback the other day and it struck me how much it was like ice cream. Rocky Road to be exact. You see, part of what makes this blend so delicious is that it’s never really just one thing. Yes, you have the dark chocolate (unless you use milk chocolate), the walnuts (or almonds) and the marshmallows. Now, depending on where you live in the world you might also enjoy bits of biscuit, raisins and a light chocolate topping as well.

You see? That’s a lot of stuff mixed together.

Like feedback.

We avoid feedback – a lot! – because we believe it’s bad. Or difficult. Or tough. But is it really? is it ever really just one thing?

What’s that old saying? 90% of what we worry about never comes true? So we waste a lot of energy. As in feedback. We waste a lot of energy being afraid of it thinking it daunting.

But feedback offered early is the single biggest lever you have not only to improve talent but actually to engage and leverage it. Feedback, done well, is the fulcrum that keeps people tipping your way and in a market where the bidding for talent is increasing, you need all the help you can get to keep people enthused about you and your firm.

You see, no one signs up to do a bad job. No one starts off in a new company, or even in a new role in their current firm with the intention of not being successful. People want to do well. They want you to feel pleased you made the choice to hire them. They want to believe they made the right choice in saying yes to you.

But much like bowling with a blindfold on if we go through the mechanical motions without any feedback about progresses, detours, up and downs we become less enthused. Over the long term lack of feedback can cause us to simply check out. We move from excitement to exit, from charm to curse.

Feedback makes the difference.

Much like Rocky Road feedback is never just one thing. It’s a combination of pluses, minuses, and neutrals. Things we need to start doing, stop doing and continue. And, if we condition people to receive feedback from the beginning of their tenure, it becomes simply a part of the norm.

Finally, as good as ice cream is we can’t indulge in it non-stop. We need a break between servings to really enjoy it. Like feedback.

Offer it up, the good and the bad (à la Rocky Road) and the give people a chance to digest it and consider it. You don’t need to be afraid for offering feedback. You need to consider how devoid of development your workplace would be if it were not offered up.

Enjoy your ice cream.


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