“Feedback would happen all the time if … ” – by Peter Cook

As part of my #FeedbackCarnival I’m delighted to host this piece from Peter Cook. Peter isn’t your average leadership and OD professional / speaker / author given that he’s also a highly respected member of the music scene and brings those music skills and experience into his work.  Here Peter shares three key aspects to helping feedback happen all the time…..

Feedback would happen all the time if … “

I was challenged to write a post on the issue of feedback by Helen Amery, around this question and it certainly raised my curiosity. I was also inspired by a post about feedback in music made by Tim Scott on The Larsen Effect. Feedback is essential if we are to reach our best at work and in life in general. At the organisation level, feedback is an essential ingredient if your enterprise is to become a true learning company or adaptive organisation. If that’s the case, why do we not always get the feedback we need to excel personally or corporately? Three thoughts spring to mind:

Feedback happens all the time, if we are listening …

We are bombarded by feedback but that does not mean we’re listening. Noise gets in the way some of the time.In other cases we may not want to hear the feedback we’re getting. Here’s my one page summary of how great communicators operate:

A case in point comes from one of my local pubs that is currently in crisis. The interim manager has the great advantage of having staff that know exactly what problems need fixing. There is also a wealth of valuable information on tripadvisor which pinpoints the kitchen as one area for urgent action. Unfortunately he rules by fear, so the staff won’t share their intimate knowledge of what needs fixing for fear of losing their jobs and he has not used the information available at his fingertips on the internet. As a result, the pub drifts from fad to fad and I fear his turnaround strategy will fail.

Consonance comforts

If all we get is criticism, it’s no wonder that we turn off. Everyone need to get some feedback that is ‘consonant’ with our image of ourselves just to get by. I don’t mean ego stroking or avoiding difficult issues, but if we are to remain open to the kind of feedback that is hard to hear, we need some kind of basic foundation on which to pay attention. If you have to tell someone something hard to hear, it really helps if you have a bank balance of some positives to draw on. It’s what many coaches refer to as the ‘feedback sandwich’.

Consonance is insufficient

However, if all we get are ‘warm fuzzies’ from people, we merely reach a plateau of mediocrity. Great leaders are receptive to more than just signs of approval. They welcome feedback that is ‘dissonant’ with their worldview.

The like button on facebook may comfort, but it does not make us great

To be great, open your ears, accept praise when it’s genuinely given to enhance your strengths. More importantly welcome feedback that is ‘hard to hear’ in order to improve your abilities as a leader. 


Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music.

Come to our showcase event on June 9th where we will be speaking on disruptive innovation in HR and joining forces with one of the leading influencers of the Punk Rock movement. There may be some feedback !!

4 thoughts on ““Feedback would happen all the time if … ” – by Peter Cook

    • I’ll sort the gap Peter – well spotted! The consonance thing was my own education as I’d only ever heard of dissonance – interesting that dissonance is the one referred to more – we’re so good at spotting what’s not right! So thought the link might be valuable to others too. Have a good one!!

      • Good observation. Someone said to me the other day that she thought my seminars are ‘wierd’, so I stopped her and said … so we have PowerPoint, check, so we have great ideas from academia supported by examples from business to back them up, check, so ….. yada yada ….. oh and sometimes I illustrate the points with music for a few minutes out of any given hour …. so what exactly is wierd? Just small differences are given greater prominence by many ordinary people !! 🙂 Thanks for correcting my mistake.

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