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Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Feedback?

“Mirrors” by Neil Krug via Flickr

Over the past few years I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my leadership and management style. Some of it’s been good — visionary, quick to learn, creative, insightful, direct.

Other parts have been bad (really, the flipside of the good) — too quick to change things, do things my own way, tactless at times, need to think through more carefully “how will we get there.”

All of it is good. And I hold myself responsible for doing better.

But does there come a point when feedback itself impedes progress?

Yesterday I was watching an old episode of The Brady Bunch. This is the one where the kids get measles, and they’re all in bed, kvetching. There’s Mr. & Mrs. Brady & Alice the housekeeper, putting the trays together in the kitchen, each one specifically tailored to what the kids wanted to eat.

They trudge up and down the stairs with the trays. It’s funny to watch them going up the stairs, then down the stairs, huffing and puffing.

My daughter says, “I wish I had an Alice at home.”

Mr. Brady walks into the boys’ room and hands the oldest son Greg his tray.

Greg says, “I wanted bologna.”

Mr. Brady says, basically, “But we made this just for you, it’s the food you want, just the way you want it.”

Greg repeats, basically, “I wanted bologna.”

Mrs. Brady says, “Now now, dear, if he wants bologna, he gets bologna.”

And Mr. Brady takes the tray back down the stairs.

I tried to explain to my daughter that in the Bradys’ world, it was possible to change out Greg’s food, to let them choose their own separate doctors, to flex out Mr. Brady’s schedule so he could help Marsha with her math problems. (Sexist script!)

In the real world it’s not realistic to fix every problem. The feedback may be accurate, but we have to prioritize.

Or it may not be accurate, or helpful at all, but the manifestation of some other problem that is coming out as a negative comment about work.

The amount of feedback that our employees and customers provide will only increase moving forward. What’s needed is a systematic, rational approach to listening to it and responding.

Otherwise we’re setting up false expectations, and serving our stakeholders worse in the process.

* All opinions my own.


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