When I worked as a full-time university professor, grades were not just for students. Teachers were evaluated too. Nary a semester went by without my asking an individual to administer the process while I slipped out of the classroom to give each person a chance to privately answer questions about my instructional strengths and weaknesses. Before I tiptoed out, I would nicely ask the students to provide specific feedback, even if they intended to give me a rating of excellent. As I said then and still maintain, terms like “stinky” or “great” only go so far.
Although being a finance professor is no longer my sole occupation, I am nevertheless on the receiving end of feedback all the time. As an economist, my consulting clients dispense their views throughout an engagement. Sometimes, there are questions about the data I use or a request to clarify my write-up. Other times, there could be a need to accelerate a deadline.
As a writer, there is no shortage of persons at the ready to give opinions. My literary agent provides comments about my book proposals. A publisher signals her approval by offering a competitive contract – or not. Individuals vote by allocating time and money to read my books and articles.
Focused on further development, I recently asked a trusted friend to read some of my fiction work. She is a mentor to other authors and has a reputation for candor and integrity. When she returned my pages a few days later with more than a few comments, I was a bit surprised but took a deep breath and began reading. I reread her words several times thereafter, trying to be as open as possible to suggestions. As it turns out, her insights were spot on. The fact that she was so detailed in her reply made my homework that much easier.
My conclusion is that it’s far superior to receive actionable feedback along the way rather than spend tremendous time and energy to create something that is unlikely to attract buyers of one’s products or services. The added bonus is a chance to learn and self-improve. Unless someone has the wherewithal and desire to produce in a vacuum, it seems obvious that one must be a willing listener in order to get from here to there.