How Do You Know If You're on Track at Work When There's No Feedback?

Work can require us to be solo or isolated from others. Sometimes, we need to create our own boundaries. At times, we can't rely on feedback from other people.

I recently discovered that on my maternal side, I come from a line of lighthouse keepers. Some of my ancestors worked as 'wickies'  in the United Kingdom. They would almost certainly have lived and worked in isolation. They would have relied on themselves, and the structures they dwelt in, for their safety.

I wonder how my ancestors knew they were doing a good job? (At one level, it would have been obvious. Shipwreck!)

Many of the people I coach express frustration about lack of feedback. Especially those who are in remote roles. They are not sure if they are doing a good job. This gets in the way of them loving their work. One client told me she either won't hear anything from her manager or, she hears when things go wrong. When she does get feedback, it's not specific or framed in a way she can use to improve. She feels quite stuck.

Our desire for useful feedback at work might seem like a modern affliction. In the life my ancestors lived, they would not have had managers to give them performance reviews! Yet, there might be some modern insights we can apply to their situation and our own.

In their article for Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman discuss 6 ways we can know if we are doing a good job. They list the following factors:

  • Delivering results

  • Being a trusted co-worker

  • Technical expertise 

  • Delivering on strategy 

  • Marketing your work 

  • Motivating others 

I imagine my lighthouse keeping kin could be assured they were doing well, in several ways. No shipwrecks or near misses. They could be trusted to light the lamp on time. They had the skills needed to keep the lighthouse in good working order. They knew exactly why they were employed and what was important. They could tell other people how many lives they'd saved each month. They could inspire others with their pride in keeping people and cargo safe.

In the next fortnight, I invite you to read Zenger and Folkman's article and ask yourself these 5 questions. 

  1. In what ways do their 6 factors relate to your work? 

  2. How can you assess your own performance? 

  3. Are you relying on external feedback from your manager solely? 

  4. In what other ways can you know whether you're doing a good job? 

  5. What questions could you ask your manager about what they need from you, to determine if there's anything else you could measure?


I look forward to your answers. Have an inspired fortnight, and I hope you love your work a tiny bit more. 

Lacey Yeomans