The Importance of Feedback

The Importance of Feedback

by Daniel R. Weiss
Daniel R. Weiss is the Head of School at Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis, Tennessee.

Feedback is essential. It is important to give and important to receive. In their book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well* even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, explain that “we all have blind spots because we: can’t see our own leaky faces; can’t hear our tone of voice; are unaware of even big patterns of behavior.” They go on to write that “Blind spots are amplified by: emotional math: We discount our emotions, while others count them double. Atrribution: We attribute our failure to the situation, while others attribute it to our character. Impact-Intent Gap: We judge ourselves by our intentions, while others judge us by our impact on them.” Finally, they add, “To see ourselves and our blind spots we need help from others. Invite others to be an honest mirror to help you see yourself in the moment.”

We all wear many hats. Some of us are parents, professionals, children, community leaders, philanthropists, doctors, and lawyers. Most of us fall into more than one category and must find the perfect balance of knowing which hat to wear and when to wear it.

Over the past several weeks, we have been reading the story of Joseph. For Joseph, it was not his hats that he would switch, rather his coats. The first coat that Joseph received is one of many colors. It caused his brothers to become jealous. It caused Joseph great strife. This was followed by the coat of a butler that he wore when he worked for Potiphar in Egypt, then a prisoner’s coat while sitting in jail, followed finally by a cloak of honor as he became second in charge in all of Egypt. Each coat represented a different portion of Joseph’s life. Each coat represented a way for Joseph to create his own blind spots, a way to shield himself from the feedback of others.

Leadership takes many forms. Our goal at Bornblum is to teach our students to lead through positivity. We teach our students that a leader is only as strong as those with the courage to follow. We teach our students that there is no one right way to lead and that we must be continuously adaptive in our leadership. We also teach our students the value in following and knowing when to follow those around us. Finally, we teach them that feedback is important, because it makes us a stronger leader. It opens us up to those areas where we may be blind. That is why our school is so important. We teach our students how to become leaders.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks describes, in the June 14, 2012 edition of The Jewish Chronicle and the Jerusalem Post, seven principles of Jewish leadership. This is the essence of that article:

Principle 1: Leadership begins with taking responsibility.
At the heart of Judaism are three beliefs about leadership: We are free. We are responsible. And together we can change the world.

Principle 2: No one can lead alone.
We cannot live alone. We cannot lead alone. Leadership is teamsmanship.

Principle 3: Leadership is about the future.
Before you can lead, you must have a vision of the future and be able to communicate it to others.

Principle 4: Leaders learn.
Without constant study, leadership lacks direction and depth.

Principle 5: Leadership means believing in the people you lead.
Influence lifts the people above their former selves.
Influence respects people; power controls people.
Teaching creates leaders.

Principle 6: Leadership involves a sense of timing and pace.
A leader must lead from the front: he or she must “go out before them.” But a leader must not be so far out in front that, when he turns around, he finds no one following. Leadership involves a delicate balance between impatience and patience. Go too fast and people resist and rebel. Go too slowly and they become complacent.

Principle 7: Leadership is stressful and emotionally demanding.
Transformative leaders see the need for people to change.
Leaders lead because there is work to do, there are people in need, there is injustice to be fought, there is wrong to be righted, there are problems to be solved and challenges ahead.

At Bornblum, we lead the way. We are only successful, however, when there are those who follow. Thank you for following us. Thank you for trusting us with raising the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for investing with us and making sure that more students in this community benefit from the leadership that we provide.

Elaine T. Holland in her book, Making Feedback Work: The Key to Building Effective Teams, explains that “Feedback is a two-way conversation during which we have the opportunity to see ourselves as others see us. It is a valuable source of information that helps us appreciate the impact our behaviors have on others and understand areas for learning and growth.”

Your feedback is appreciated. It is an important part of our growth and ability to remove blind spots. I encourage you to be in touch, to provide feedback and to help us positively lead.

Shabbat Shalom.


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