Don’t Overlook The Feedback

Oh how easy it can be to miss a golden opportunity to get better.

A few days back, I was a participant in a class at a YMCA, where the instructor was in the last stage of becoming certified to officially teach the class going forward. The person doing the certifying announced this to everyone, and said she would be there to do this final observation, take some notes, and so forth.

The instructor then took over, led the class and all was good. At the end, the participants left as they normally do, with appropriate thanks and acknowledgements to the soon to be certified instructor. Nothing unusual about this. And most likely, the certifer and “certifiee” hung around to discuss the session, and set the official anointing in motion.

This particular session left me unfulfilled for the following reason. I was hoping the “master” was going to ask the participants for some feedback. What did the instructor do that was good, not good, helpful, terrific, frustrating, etc. But no request for feedback ever came. And in the hallways, I heard some people talking about the session, with a handful of comments – mostly their complaints – about their experience. What a missed opportunity to have set up a positive environment to give the instructor some “atta-boys” as well as helpful suggestions.

Now, my guess is that a standard checklist of what the instructor must do to get certified exists, detailing those items which are important and mandatory. I would also offer that there are missing items on the list, which the participants either want or need to see, in order for them to be really satisfied “repeat customers.” It would have been so easy to get that feedback. But I am again assuming that seeking immediate feedback from real live customers is not the way the certification process is currently done there. So the instructor’s job was to pass the scrutiny of the master certifier, not the scrutiny of the customer.

How often do you miss the opportunity to get some valuable, real time feedback about your impact on others.  Might you make the same mistake – of doing a job the way it has always been done, vs. actively searching for the ways it may need to be done differently, in order to provide a better customer experience. It is easy to assume that the way you are doing your work is best for the customer (or your employees for that matter), especially if you never ask them. You may found out too late, that your assumption is wrong.

Feedback is a wonderful thing. Intentionally seek it out. Listen carefully to it. Ask probing questions of the providers. And work at making any necessary changes. Everybody claims they want to know what their customers think. Yet how often to they fail to ask?

In my mind the new instructor will be fine, as she had all the basics down. But she will move from good to great a lot quicker if she can find ways to figure out how she can be even better in meeting the needs and desires of her students.

But focusing on providing relevant feedback to the new instructor is not the only lesson in this example. The coveted “master certifier,” must also be open and willing to seek feedback on ways to make the certification process even better for all. That process must also continue to be robust and adaptive as well, or the result will be mediocre new instructors at best..

Feedback is an absolute essential for anyone aspiring to get better, no matter how important or polished a person believes himself or herself to be. Never turn down the opportunity to reach out for it. It will make you better.

PS: And if you are wondering, I did privately provide some encouraging feedback and a suggestion. Hopefully it was helpful.

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