Getting Feedback For The Quality Of Your Work

February 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

photo by Billie Jane

I sometimes wonder about how I dealt with bureaucracy and hierarchy in the army, when I find it challenging to work for others. I spent two and a half years serving out my National Service in the bureaucracy of bureaucracies. But it didn’t feel that way. I thought I was pretty fortunate to have worked under a fair and just man that taught me the importance of emotional fortitude.I didn’t feel like I was working for “the man” either. Working for and with those around you gave it meaning and purpose.

The danger of working alone and attempting to “do-it-my-way” is working without proper focus and direction. After much thought though, I believe being independent in thought and being teachable are not mutual exclusives. I believe it to be possible to be both.

The key in being an independent thinker while taking advice and correction from mentors is the ability of Choice.

Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in Outliers: The Story Of Success that being teachable, focusing your 10,000 hours, requires concentrated and directed efforts. The role of a mentor, then, is to direct your efforts, such that you are constantly brought back into focus. Without deliberate practice and effort, 10,000 hours will not get you there. Without feedback, your efforts are diffused and unfocused.

A friend of mine remarked that her sister has decided to emigrate from Singapore to Australia. Malaysian and Indonesian friends would probably think of Singaporeans who emigrate as crazy. (“Clean streets, high income, stable government, nice homes. What else do you all want? Don’t you appreciate what you have?”)

I could guess at the reasons why my friend’s sister emigrated to Australia, but I decided to ask why anyway.

“Its the environment that’s limiting her. Firstly it was the weather. She didn’t like the heat, after having spent years studying in a place with four seasons.”

“Then the working environments is what gets to her. Most of all, she lamented the lack of feedback from peers and superiors. She could not get any suggestions on how she could progress in her career, simply because bosses never told her what she could improve on, or whether she was doing well on her work. In western countries, you get praises and commendations for good work. If there were areas you could improve or work on, you could get feedback on that too.”

This probably fit into the description of focused work without feedback. It is probably maddening when you’re devoted into your life’s work, but not getting a dime on what works or doesn’t.

How does one go about seeking feedback while keeping your independence of thought?

1. Start a blog.

The single most helpful thing that can give you feedback on you and your work is this. There has already been a ton of tips that encourages us to start blogs, for a variety of positive reasons: personal branding, improving your writing, self-introspection. Writing about your “stuff” also forces you to think hard about the “stuff” you’re trying to improve on. Its only been half a year at this blog for me, and I still find it hard to sit in front of a blank screen, trying to put words on it. But I find myself clearer in thought and improving in my writing ability. I’m going to sum it up by saying that its a great feedback channel that gives you all of the previously mentioned benefits.

2. Mentor-seek: The Tim Ferriss Method

The lifestyle design uberhacker recommends having difficult conversations (email and phone) to increase your chances of success in life. One of the best ways to put this to use is to find your Yoda. Tim gives specific scripts on how to contact the uber exclusive and hard to reach. I’ve personally used this to contact CEOs and directors of companies for suggestions, and will continue to use them.

3. Mentor-seek: The Ramit Sethi Method

Ramit wrote a great post on about how spending $20 could help you make a great friend and mentor. How? Ask them out for lunch and “pick their brains apart”. My suggestions is to approach this as a great opportunity for friendship as well.

4. Smart Pro-Bono: The Charlie Hoehn Method

Charlie has become recognized recently for writing “The Recession Proof Graduate” a guide that teaches fresh or soon-to-be grads on the art of smart job-seeking. He’s used the same methods to get work with Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi. This is a free ebook that’s highly recommended by Seth Godin and many others. Charlie’s methods enables you to get feedback on the Quality of your work too.


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