Feedback or Recognition?

Marcus Buckingham is a British author, motivational speaker and business consultant. With past experience as a researcher for Gallup, he uses interviews from around the world to draw conclusions about employee performance and engagement. Many of his encouragements center around self-awareness and building on strengths.

At the Global Leadership Summit 2017, Buckingham stated, “We don’t want feedback; we want attention.”

Fascinating.

In the world of education, feedback is an expectation- for students, for teachers and for administration. Feedback is encouraged for comprehension, for assessment of teaching tools and for engagement. For example,  three popular classroom tools used for engagement include:

  • Twitter- One can create a hashtag and then give students an opportunity for interaction on whatever topic the class covered or discovered. While Twitter certainly was not meant as a polling tool, it can work quite well.
  • Google Forms- Free and simple to use. Google Forms has many templates and themes providing opportunities for shared information
  • Kahoot- Kahoot is a web tool that delivers online quizzes and surveys. Simple to use, teachers can drag and drop to create all kinds of feedback opportunities.

Frankly, Twitter and Google Forms work well for parent input as well.

But this idea of feedback is not the idea of feedback that Buckingham is commenting on. His “feedback” idea is part of the whole idea of professional performance reviews. Often these reviews are based on collaborative professional development plans and the reaching of goals spelled out in these plans.  “360 reviews” are quite popular, and are especially used in our world for administrative reviews so that multiple constituents can provide input on the leader.

Buckingham debunks reviews that are using a numerical matrix. His research indicates that all input is skewed by the reviewer. One may be a “hard grader” and never give a top score. Or the person may be an easy scorer with an inability to give a low score. Simply stated, he argues that most of the total score of the reviews are user biased and are worthless.

So what is valuable? Research says we want to be informed and affirmed of our strengths. We want to know how well we are using these skills. We also want to know purpose- the organization’s purpose and how we plug into the purpose.

Does this sound like you? Are you more interested in a little recognition vs feedback? Years of experience says there is much fretting over having a performance review. Administrators find limited time to get these accomplished and teachers and staff see little connection with the process and actual personal growth. More often than not, reviews are “check offs” for board approval or for accreditation reports.

The reality is that having some critical eyes in the classroom are valuable for the growth of a teacher.  Hearing from teachers, students, parents and other leaders is helpful for the effectiveness of a principal. Students need to get information to improve their products- essays, projects, etc.

But if Buckingham’s research is valid, might our review processes look different and become more effective if reviews are relational, intentional and ongoing or as Buckingham directs, we share purpose and we build on strengths? What are the implications of this research  in the classroom, for ongoing teacher development and for supporting and encouraging administrators?

Our culture places much emphasis on success or at being the best at something. Parents will spend hundreds of dollars on club sports or for personal trainers with the hope of a child being the best volleyball player, basketball player or musician.  Much is discussed and encouraged from educational reforms that lean toward the exceptional. Educators are encouraged to be creative and avoid placing barriers so that the inner curiosity of the child can be fostered. The the child can find his/her strengths and grow those strengths to new impact into the world. One could argue that a classroom with few barriers for creativity might lose some direction and ….. purpose.

What happens when purpose and and awareness of strengths are aligned with our theology?  A gold mine of joy can occur!

Purpose? There’s a lot of Law here but there is also clear direction from our God.

  • We should use our talents to the best of our ability (1 Peter 4:10-11)
  • We are encouraged to be faithful (Revelation 2:10).  We are never directed to be successful
  • We are witnesses of God’s grace and are salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16, Acts 1:8)
  • Have children and be stewards of the world God has given us. (Genesis 1:28-30)
  • Be patient and loving, ready to share the joy that we have (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Knowing strengths? Self-awareness?

  • We are a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9-10).
  • We are Christ’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
  • We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

What a gift to know and to be able to share these directions for life! These insights are especially helpful as we know the One who is the giver of the gifts, the One who knew his purpose. Jesus knew His purpose. He died for us so that heaven is ours. Life here has purpose. Our gifts are used for His glory. Our perspective on life and life eternal is still all about Jesus.