Lessons from a Bike Ride: Effective Feedback

The impact of timely and accurate feedback on performance cannot be overstated. This simple truth was vividly brought home to me during a recent bike ride. As an enthusiastic endurance cyclist, I regularly cover distances of 50 miles or more in a day, whether for fitness or as part of specific event training like a century ride.

Beyond my bike and helmet, a crucial gear for me is the bike computer mounted on my handlebars. Although it offers a plethora of data, I primarily focus on about 10% of its capabilities. I use it to monitor vital metrics such as heart rate via a chest strap, speed, pedal cadence, and pavement gradient.

However, the most critical feedback comes from power output, measured in watts by my bike’s built-in power meters. This real-time data reflects my performance accurately. Unlike variables like heart rate or speed, power consistently informs me about my sustainable effort and helps me avoid burnout during rides.

On a recent ride I showed up to the start location and discovered that rechargeable battery in my bike computer hadn’t charged overnight. I was faced with a ride of about 40 miles over some hilly terrain without any feedback. This experience that lacked any feedback whatsoever, other than what I could consciously feel in my body, led me to think about the feedback we provide and receive as leaders. I spent a fair amount of time over the next few hours of that ride thinking about the timeliness, frequency and quality of feedback I provide as well as that I seek out and receive.

Simon Sinek’s words, “Leadership is not about being in charge, but taking care of those in our charge,” resonated deeply. Feedback, both positive and constructive, plays a pivotal role in nurturing growth and connection. Lack of feedback can lead to feelings of devaluation and isolation.

While positive feedback is valuable, specificity is key. Rather than a generic “good job,” acknowledging specific efforts and connecting them to anticipated outcomes leaves a lasting impact. Publicly praising someone’s achievements often amplifies the positive effect, though it’s crucial to respect individual preferences for public recognition.

Equally important is delivering constructive feedback. Many struggle with this aspect, fearing it might strain relationships. However, addressing issues promptly and directly prevents problems from escalating.

Admitting my own hesitance in providing corrective guidance over my career, I’ve realized the significance of this feedback for growth. It’s a misconception that providing direct comments about behavior or actions damages relationships; instead, it often strengthens them.

As one ascends to senior roles, receiving unfiltered feedback becomes challenging. Initiating conversations or utilizing feedback tools like 360-degree reviews becomes necessary. Constructive cultures facilitate honest communication, a principle I’ve observed in my experiences at C&S.

Unlike a bike computer’s unfeeling metrics, meaningful feedback in professional settings is reciprocal. Reflecting on my ride without data led me to reevaluate my feedback practices. I’m committed to improving the quality, timeliness, and guidance in providing feedback to those I lead, and I encourage others to do the same.

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