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Living in a Feedback Desert? Think Again

Want to know how well you’re doing? You’re not alone. Sixty-five percent of employees want more feedback. Clients often share with me that they feel they don’t receive any feedback, save the occasional “good job.” This is what I describe as a feedback desert — no nourishment in sight, with the occasional mirage.

We know that feedback is critical to our success. It allows us to see what’s working and where we need to pivot. At the end of the day, feedback saves us time and effort by aligning us to our most impactful way forward. What happens when you don’t receive any feedback?

This is what I hear from a lot of my clients. They are frustrated because they live in a feedback desert — with no reinforcement or redirection in sight. My response can often be hard to hear because they do receive feedback — it just doesn’t come nicely packaged with a neon blinking sign signaling that it is. That doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable. You just have to look a little further.

If you think you’re living in a feedback desert, try looking at these two sources a little differently. You might find that they aren’t a mirage.


Kudos are gold mines for feedback. When someone shares kudos, no matter how generic it is, you learn about the impact you had. Understanding what works means that you can leverage that skill or strength going forward.

Try This

To get the most out of your kudos, keep a “me file” that you can look back at occasionally. Include emails, notes, cards, etc. From time to time, look at the themes that emerge. What’s more, you may find that one of your greatest strengths is something you take for granted. That matters because we can’t leverage our strengths if we aren’t aware of them. Kudos are a powerhouse of feedback — it just depends on what you do with it.

If you want to dig deeper to learn more about the impact you’ve had, try these strategies for responding to generic praise.


“Let me know if you have any questions!” Ahh, the ubiquitous sign-off phrase of all emails. In truth, it’s a feedback magnet. Feedback may also be masquerading as questions you receive. Consider the questions you receive in the following scenarios:

  • Pitching a new idea
  • Giving a presentation
  • Submitting completed work
  • Emailing resources or responses to clients or coworkers

Questions signal needs. The questions you receive dial you into areas that may be confusing or point to what your stakeholder thinks is important. If you pay attention to these questions — and their themes — you will learn how to evolve your communication skills and projects to better meet your clients’ needs.

Try This

Instead of rushing through Q&A sessions or writing a hurried email reply, try this approach next time you receive a question. After each project or at milestones throughout, reflect on the questions’ themes.

  • What do these themes signal?
  • What strengths and skills do others see in me? Are there strengths I’m overusing?
  • What worked? What surprised me?
  • What do I need to experiment with going forward? Who can help me?
  • How do my products, projects, and work need to evolve to proactively meet their needs?

Practice reflecting each time you receive questions to hone this skill and turn it into valuable data. This will allow you to iterate with each opportunity. As a bonus, proactively meeting clients’ needs will not only level up your work, but it will lead to next-level questions from them.

Next Steps

Feedback isn’t a rare occurrence. In truth, we receive feedback all the time. We might just ignore it or fail to interpret it. But if you keep wishing your feedback giver would be more specific, you likely will be kept waiting. Instead, look deeper into the kudos and questions you receive. No matter where you start, you’ll probably find that the mirage was an oasis after all.

Dr. Jamie Crews is certified Senior HR professional with nearly two decades of public sector HR experience.  She specializes in strategic talent management with an emphasis in leadership and organizational development.  Jamie helped establish and now leads the County of Orange’s first Organizational Development function.  As an experienced change practitioner, Jamie has led large scale organizational changes, talent development and initiatives, and served as a coach to senior leaders.  She loves partnering with leaders to maximize their potential and that of their team.  Her research focus is on women in leadership, with an emphasis on public sector leaders. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

Photo by Juli Kosolapova via unsplash.com

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