Bill Gates and Feedback

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Receiving specific and genuine feedback from people who deeply care about you is one of the best gifts you can get in your career (or life). Even Bill Gates, (now reclaiming the richest man in the world status) still personally cares about receiving feedback. Note the following from a recent article: Bill Gates: Good Feedback is the Key to Improvement. 

“When Melinda (Bill Gate’s wife) and I learned how little useful feedback most teachers get, we were blown away. Until recently, over 98 percent of teachers just got one word of feedback: Satisfactory. If all my Bridge coach ever told me was that I was ‘satisfactory,’ I would have no hope of ever getting better. How would I know who was the best? How would I know what I was doing differently?”

The two basic elements regarding meaningful and effective feedback belong to the mindset of the giver and receiver. The giver has to sincerely care about the receiver, and the receiver has to want to learn from the feedback. Even better, the receiver has an almost insatiable thirst for getting feedback. They are ideally non-defensive and always searching for more insight, self-discovery and learning. And perhaps even better yet, the giver, or “coach,” has the exceptional gift for teaching, is very knowledgeable, a keen observer and translator able to connect the behavior of the receiver to a better way of doing or saying things.

Be able to apply an effective feedback model. The following process is an example:

Giver: “Would you like some feedback?” (Do not give feedback if the receiver is not ready to hear it).

Receiver: “Yes, I would.”

Giver: “Before I give you my feedback and insight, what do you think (regarding the subject matter) went well? What would you continue to do more of?”

[Receiver answers.]

Giver: “What do you think you might do less of or stop doing?”

[Receiver answers.]

Giver: “What are one or two very specific actions you might take (by a certain time)?”

[Receiver answers.]

Giver: Would you still like my feedback? If the receiver says “yes,” the Giver states… “This is what I would encourage you to continue to do more of,” “This is what I would encourage you to stop doing, or do less of,” “this is what I would encourage you start doing…” “I might enhance your action plan with… (If anything).”

Receiver: Ask lots of questions to get clarification and to REALLY understand the insight you have been given. Always end the discussion by THANKING the giver.

Character Moves:

  1. By applying the above process, you allow the receiver to start from their own self-assessment and build from there. The self-assessment as the first phase allows the giver an opportunity to understand the gap between the receiver’s understanding and the giver’s assessment.
  2. If you are a receiver, do not wait for feedback… Go to someone who genuinely cares about you, someone with knowledge, and proactively ASK for it. Use this process or a modified version from learning how to play Bridge better (as Bill Gates does) to more comprehensive performance reviews. By the way, when you get feedback, accept it and be open to it. Not every giver is accurate, but be genuinely interested in the value of their perspective.
  3. The most effective learners and leaders are on a constant journey for self-development and want “tough love.” They enjoy positive feedback of course, but are totally open to recognizing the opportunity for serious improvement regardless of their level of competence.

Feedback and Bill Gates in The Triangle,

Lorne Rubis