Ever feel deep in your heart that something is wrong at work? What you know intellectually to be true and what your experiences are telling you, deep down, something just doesn't feel right. It feels forced and maybe even fake--like you've been living a lie all this time. 

Perhaps nine of them, to be exact.

In Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World, global researcher Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Sr. VP of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, offer us a manifesto for truth and change at work.

The 9 Lies

Packed with compelling stories and backed by research about how humans actually work, the co-authors expose these nine lies:

Lie #1: People care which company they work for. 

Lie #2: The best plan wins.

Lie #3: The best companies cascade goals.

Lie #4: The best people are well-rounded.

Lie #5: People need feedback.

Lie #6: People can reliably rate other people.

Lie #7: People have potential. 

Lie #8: Work-life balance matters most.

Lie #9: Leadership is a thing.

The lie that "people need feedback."

I asked Goodall to sit down with me on the Love in Action podcast and unpack some of the lies. For this article, I'm focusing on Lie #5: People need feedback. 

So where does this lie come from? One word: Fear. There's this fear that people might not do the job and leaders might fail because their teams will have failed. Consequently, so the thought process goes, leaders think they have to force feedback on their employees whether they like it or now.

We find this tactic in play in those antiquated annual performance reviews. Goodall says that what people actually do need for their growth and development, "feedback does the opposite."

Goodall says, "When someone feels like they're about to be judged of something, their brains leave the conversation....and if the brain has left the conversation, it's no longer around to do any learning."

Goodall asserts that leaders have to find different ways to talk to people about work in a way that keeps them present to learning.

The truth about what people need instead.

Goodall states that "people learn best when you give them attention to what worked" and they learn best "when we share our reactions to what went brilliantly well."

In essence, if a team member does something worthy of notice and you, the leader, respond enthusiastically with something like, that was really great workthis response allows the team member to lean into what he or she did, which makes that person more open to hearing you uncover what they did.

The point of this type of feedback, says Goodall, is so team members can do it again; it reinforces the behavior that led to something great. And that's what professional development looks like for team members, says Goodall: "Doing more of the stuff that they do well...more."

So here's the clincher: What people need more of in order to grow is not feedback--especially not negative feedback. They need more opportunities for receiving positive attention and attention to what they do best.

Published on: May 28, 2019
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