No More Feedback With Carol Sanford (Episode 103)

 

This week, contrarian business thought leader Carol Sanford joins me to discuss her new book, No More Feedback.

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If the title strikes you as both surprising and unnerving, welcome to the club. Within organizations giving and receiving feedback are widely considered noble acts. Although we may not be competent at feedback, we know it’s a good thing—key to personal growth and leadership development.

Carol says, “no, not really.”

In her view, any effort to ask another person where I am strong or how I could improve is intrinsically harmful, even toxic. For this reason she offers a harsh critique of annual performance reviews, competency models, and 360 degree interviews. The damage they cause is so profound (e.g. rewarding conformity, shifting attention from big promises, encouraging confirmation bias, and reducing self-reflection) and the foundation upon which they are based is so flawed that it’s foolish to tweak them.

Instead, Carol argues, get rid of feedback entirely.

Three things I learned in talking with Carol:

  1. I share her assessment of most of the activities that she calls “feedback.”
  2. When I use the term “feedback”—for example, as one of four steps in the on-the-job-practice cycle—I’m talking about something that Carol does not consider feedback because the person requesting it is authoring their own learning.
  3. I can stay grounded while listening to someone critique a practice near and dear to my heart, as Carol does with the Enneagram. In fact, it’s kind of fun.

Have a listen, and tell me what you think.

Highlights

  • 10:00 Humans as machines, the first seedbed of feedback
  • 17:00 Three foundational capacities of people to cultivate
  • 24:30 Jerry, a contrarian at Weyerhaeuser pushed out for not conforming
  • 32:00 Feedback raises anxiety
  • 41:00 Opportunities to self-reflect can break attachment to 360 feedback
  • 49:00 Why modifying feedback systems doesn’t work: the premise is flawed
  • 54:00 Carol only has people assess themselves in relation to a big promise they are making in the world
  • 1:02:00 Carol’s work with Seventh Generation when it was in the red
  • 1:12:00 Perils of low fat diet, benefits of intermittent fasting

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