Going Beyond Your Feedback Bubble

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A feedback bubble is a small circle of colleagues from which you receive regular feedback. Such bubbles are natural parts of our working environment, particularly because most work occurs within small groups. However, while feedback bubbles can serve as safe and effective places to give and receive feedback, intentionally seeking feedback outside of them can catapult growth.

Even the most feedback-literate among us are part of a feedback bubble or two. These bubbles may be where we’ve received feedback that has positively shaped our professional lives, and perhaps the bubble you are in still serves you in this way.

While this “home” feedback bubble may be where you continue returning to, your growth could take on new dimensions if you consciously step outside of it. For many, what once was an effective feedback bubble has become an ineffective comfort zone.

“The Comfort Zone is supposed to keep your life safe, but what it really does is keep your life small.”

—Dr. Phil Stutz, The Tools

Beyond the Feedback Bubble

In a colorful work office filled with many cubicles, four people are inside a bubble that says "Feedback Bubble"

Here are the four most common ways leaders I’ve worked with have pursued new feedback opportunities.

  1. Stretch Out

They stretch themselves by taking on something new that is outside of but in some way related to their work. For example, a VP of Organizational Learning may distill their insights and apply them by signing up to give a TEDx Talk with their local chapter. Professional organizations can offer great opportunities here as well. For example, a marketing analytics individual contributor may pursue a volunteer position with the American Marketing Association that stretches their ability to build and motivate a community.

  1. Reach In

Sometimes, reaching inside your organization may be your best opportunity to receive new perspectives and feedback. Many companies, including my employer Cisco, offer incredible mentoring and shadowing programs. As Cisco’s Maite Muruzabal wrote in this blog:

“During my career, having a mentor has proven to be a fantastic experience, providing me with support, feedback, advice and inspiration.”

You can also create new feedback opportunities by serving as a mentor. Remember: feedback goes beyond hierarchical borders.

  1. Extend It

Has your feedback bubble consisted of the same four people for an extended period? Perhaps it’s time to extend this bubble by welcoming some new voices into it. While this may happen naturally for parts of the organization that face higher turnover rates, some executive leadership teams may have stayed the same for many years. Once you’ve thought about your own bubble, you might see a fantastic opportunity to extend it to include other folks, including future leaders who could use the exposure and will likely bring new perspectives.

  1. Reflect On

Indirect feedback seeking is a topic we’ve covered plenty here. One part of it includes observing some qualities in others, comparing that to your own, and using that comparison as a point of feedback for how you can improve. This type of observational feedback work can take place inside or outside your organization, but it typically involves these four steps:

  • Choosing an area you’d like to improve
  • Observing somebody who models your potential future state
  • Reflecting on how to pull those qualities into your work
  • Practicing those qualities in your work

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  • A video to share with your team: