Feedback can be a scary concept. Most people throughout corporate America tremble when their boss calls them in “to share some feedback.” Even if the feedback is constructive, it still tends to place a spotlight on your weaknesses. And, of course, the greatest barrier to acting on constructive feedback is the offense we take along with it. Often times, our ego makes us defensive, which ultimately marginalizes the potential benefits. Especially among the creative set – a group that is especially passionate about their work – negative feedback doesn’t always help.
It is worth considering other methods for improving the skills of others – and for helping all people capitalize on their strengths. Last year in BehanceMag, we featured one of the greatest storytellers in the world, Jay O'Callahan. O’Callahan has been proclaimed by Time magazine and others as a true master of storytelling. He travels the world with his stories and runs a series of storytelling workshops to help aspiring storytellers (and experienced masters) hone their craft.
Jay is also a pioneer of Appreciations, a technique to improve the skills of storytellers without any demoralizing consequences. Here's the concept behind appreciations: Having just shared a story (or, in other contexts, a presentation, idea, etc.), you would go around and ask people to comment on the elements they appreciate. After hearing the aspects of your story that people appreciate most, you are likely to emphasize those components more (and thus de-emphasize the other components that are not appreciated) in the future.
O'Callahan explains, "It is strange that, in our culture, we are trained to look for weaknesses. When I work with people, they are often surprised when I point out the wonderful crucial details - the parts that are alive." O'Callahan goes on to suggest that, "if our eyes are always looking for weakness, we begin to lose the intuition to notice the beauty."
There are certainly benefits to direct constructive feedback. However, such an approach is not always the most effective way to help people improve. The power of appreciation is not only informative but also motivating and rewarding. At the very least, leaders across industries should consider how they can adopt a system of appreciations to improve each person’s performance.
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.
Photo credit: TheTruthAbout...