How To Improve Your Performance Through Qualitative Feedback



“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” — Ken Blanchard

How can you systematically improve your performance?

Create your own feedback system.

The key is to focus on the quality of your work and the quality of your thinking.

Another key is to use qualitative feedback over quantitative feedback.

In Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance, John Eliot, Ph.D., writes about how to use qualitative feedback to improve your performance.

Use Qualitative Over Quantitative Feedback

You should find a way to shift towards more qualitative feedback where you can.  Having numbers will help you set mini-goals, and gauge your progress.

Eliot writes:

“It is difficult to find a mathematical description of attitude.  While we have a sense of what it means to be passionate or fully committed, how do you score an emotion? 

To gauge the process of a performance requires qualitative evaluation, not a quantitative one.”

Identify What You Want to Improve

You need to decide what you actually want to improve.  When you have a focus, you can target your actions and energy, so you can get better results.

Eliot writes:

“Decide what factors you want to keep an eye on over time — commitment, the Trusting Mindset, playing in the present, for example — and then design your own log or feedback system.”

Use Images and Words

Use the language of the mind, images and words, over numbers, so that you can inspire yourself:

Eliot writes:

“Ideally, you want to build an evaluation strategy that helps you interview yourself about the quality of your work and the quality of your thinking.  As you get comfortable with evaluating effectively, move from digital information to analyze, from stat sheets to language. 

After all, the operating data of the mind is comprised not of numbers but of images and words.

Instead of putting numbers on aspects of your performance, use words and images to describe each factor before and during performance.  If, for example, you are evaluating the level of your commitment to a project or job, don’t count the hours you’ve put in. 

That’s quantitative thinking.  Analyze where you put your eyes, how sustained your vision and enthusiasm were, how well you kept track of the real reason you were performing and what obstacles or setbacks affected your effort, and how.”

Journal Your Results

Write your results down:

Eliot writes:

“Set up your journal according to a given day or specific performances, breaking down each in as much detail as you can. 

In baseball, I like hitters to break ti down according to each pitch — what was their confidence, did they correctly make note of the situation, did they see the ball well and trust their hands, and so on. “

Separate Evaluation from Performance

Don’t mix up your performance with your evaluation.  When you are performing, perform.  When you are evaluating, evaluate.

Eliot writes:

“Most important, since it’s crucial to separate evaluation from performance and to keep yourself from being an assessment junkie, pre set a time block or day, at regular intervals, when you will look back at your performance — every Friday after lunch for two hours, for example.  If you are working on different projects, you should be interviewing yourself on how you think you did on each.”

Use Your Log for Insights

Use your log to find what improves your performance and what bogs you down:

Eliot writes:

“At the end of the quarter, you can compile your periodic evaluation.

Look for patterns. 

You might see stretches where you put in a lot of time, but your evaluation continually said, ‘My mind wanders to how the marketing department will perceive this new product.’ 

Your boss might have been impressed with your late nights at the office, but you noted, ‘I was just grinding away, banging my head into the wall over and over.’ 

When you described yourself as ‘focused’ or ‘on fire,’ what was it about those days or projects that caused that feeling. 

The log should tell you.

Focus on Useful Feedback Over Scores

Your feedback is part of a continuous improvement process:

Eliot writes:

“Notice that you are not just filling in a chart or checking boxes on the typical self-improvement questionnaire.  A qualitative valuation is not another thing on your to-do list

You don’t want to find yourself saying, ‘I must be performing well because I checked all the boxes on my evaluation sheet.’ 

An effective assessment provides working feedback rather than scores.  It is really part of the work execution process, serve as a starting point for how you set up your mind for the next performance.”

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Use qualitative feedback to evaluate the quality of your work and your mind.   As simple as this sounds, I think it’s an important and healthy shift.  It’s all too easy to throw hours at a problem.  That’s not the same as being fully engaged and performing your best.  Your qualitative feedback will tell you where you mind really was, your level of effort, your passion, … etc.
  • Identify key areas of your performance that you want to improve.  Work backwards from a state of your peak performance.  When you are performing your best, what are you thinking? what is your energy level like? what is your confidence? … etc.
  • Break your feedback down.  Break it up into specific, discreet parts of your performance.   This will help you get precision during specific activities.  This will help you see patterns.
  • Use words and images.  Words and images have a deeper meaning for your mind.  Use them to get precision in areas that you want to improve.
  • Keep a journal.  Writing down your results will give you a way to see your personal success patterns and areas that you need to improve.
  • Schedule your reflection time.  Don’t continuously second-guess yourself during your performance.  Instead, give your all during your performance, and when you have your evaluation, then you can assess how you did.
  • Use your feedback to improve your next performance.  Your feedback is your tool for iterative and incremental improvement.  Your last results are input into your next performance.

You can improve your performance by building your own feedback system and by focusing on qualitative feedback.

Enjoy the process and have fun while getting better at the things you really care about.

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  1. JD,

    Great post. I can attest to power of visual thinking. I am an engineer by education but hotelier by passion. I own two hotels and currently I am building third hotel. While building this hotel, I have been using the visual approach of goal settings and it has worked like miracle. I never had so much of commitment, focus and energy.

    Please visit my blog and subscribe if you can. I just subscribed to yours.


  2. Shilpan — great to hear!

    I’ve always liked the saying “what the mind can concieve, the body can achieve.” If you don’t know what you want, you’ll have a hard time building it. If you can see in your mind what you want, it’s easier to get others on board to help you get there.

  3. JD,

    I like your perspective. I have goal to reach 500 subscribers by this fall. I have 60 so far. Not bad for two months of work but not great either. As you’ve said precisely, “If you can see in your mind what you want, it’s easier to get others on board to help you get there.” – Please give me some suggestions on how I can grow my readership. You can guess that I admire you already.

    P.S. I believe that sharing goals with others also helps since others know what you want.


  4. Hey Shilpan –
    Thanks for the compliments.

    Here’s what I’ve seen the most successful bloggers do to grow their readership:
    1. Guest post on relevant blogs.
    2. Write E-Zine articles.
    3. Create focused Squidoo pages.
    4. Stumble/Digg.

    There’s other techniques, but these are the ones that I think are low-hanging fruit and effective.

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