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Compliments of eszter via Flickr

“The relentless pursuit of perfection” is a slogan associated with an “obsessive attention to detail.” This impactful statement concerns continuously improving one’s craft, realizing that it is never done.

Each term I have a “new set of eyes” looking at the online course I’ve developed, and the Principles of Management on-ground class that I teach. I’ve found feedback from my “customers” to be extraordinarily helpful. In The Success Principles, Canfield explains one of the worst mistakes we can make is eschewing input. Acting on advice not only improves the product, but makes your work more a more collaborative effort.  Even those who welcome feedback err when they get angry at the source or ignore the advice (Canfield, 2005).

I would imagine that masters in their respective fields spend countless hours listening to other people, tweaking their product, gathering information, and honing their craft. Testing, retesting, asking for advice (and repeating the process ad infinitum) is necessary to create a thing of quality.

The payoff of persistence is realized in loyal satisfied customers who spread the word. When I was a member of Toastmasters, an important meeting component was oral evaluation – in which seasoned members provided suggestions for practiced speeches. An individual who had won an international speaking competition (a person with twenty five years’ experience), said that he no longer wanted to hear the positives – just tell him on what he needed to improve.

That information in his mind contained potential gems – the pieces (that when polished) would become pearls. A recipe for failure is to keep on doing what you’re doing – a mentality marked by a hubris which suggests you’re alone. An acquaintance once remarked that she didn’t want to be around people she considered “professional students.” I’ve never understood that statement, as I consider life a learning process. One can’t however learn if their head is stuck in the sand.

Conducting your business as if it existed in a vacuum will make you a lonely person; eventually, people will take their business elsewhere. If you are the one giving the feedback, strive to do so in a tactful fashion, in a way that preserves the dignity of the other person. Moreover, let individuals speak for themselves – passing along input from someone who wants to remain anonymous abrogates the expectation of transparency (and mutual respect).

Helpful feedback is specific, action oriented, and given in the spirit of improvement. “I’m the one in charge, just do as I say” is not the way to proceed. We are all beings with fragile egos, in some cases suffering from low self-esteem. You are more likely to see the fruit of your suggestions if they’re delivered in the absence of animosity. People are receptive when they do not feel obliterated, and will more likely be fed if they’re eating out of your hand.

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The fluidity of life long learning

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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