Lessons in Leadership: When No Feedback is Good News





What is startling about the nature of work today is the how incessant and often conflicting demands create a daily barrage of activity. Controlled chaos is the norm.  Everything is urgent; everything is an “A” priority. So it is not surprising that a leader cherishes those individuals who take the initiative to get the job done with little or no direction. Sometimes leaders luck out because they have inherited such a person. Other times they are “lucky” because they have made good choices in selecting the best people.

One clearly sees the concept of “no feedback is good news” under three circumstances:

  1. A pacesetting work environment

In pacesetting-type environments, successful outcomes are the norm. What this means is that no feedback is good news; no feedback is required. No feedback means you as team member are doing what is expected, getting it done, winning the war by getting results. It’s business as usual. The only times a leader is compelled to give feedback is when problems are not resolved or priorities not handled.  In these instances leaders use negative feedback when expectations are not met. By contrast, the absence of negative feedback implies “you have accomplished what is expected.”


  1. Working with high achievers

The reason that these organizations can succeed is because the employ high achievers. While a leader may appreciate and “cherish” these individuals, the reality is that they come predisposed to do outstanding work. High achievers possess intrinsic motivation fueled by high standards and the need for exemplary performance.  Ninety- eight percent accomplishment represents 2% failure.  Achievement motivation can be an endless source of energy in search of a higher mountain to climb.  Today Kilimanjaro; tomorrow, Everest.

  1. High achievers as leaders

In many technically based organizations, it is common to see that the people promoted into leadership positions are the best and the brightest individual contributors. As individual contributors, they are intrinsically motivated to do outstanding work. Their internal gyroscope guides them to what’s  better, faster, higher. As leaders, they excel in working with other high achievers. Because everyone, including the leader, is self-motivated to achieve success, the need for feedback is nil.

There is another reason why a high-achiever leader might operate out of “no feedback is good news” mentality, and that has to do with what they value.  High achievers do a lot of work in their heads. They value their ability to study, to learn, to figure things out often with little or no direction from others. Actually, it is better that way because who knows better than they about getting the job done “right.”

These are the expectations they have for themselves; these are the expectations they have for those they manage. The thought process is, “I figured it out, and I expect that you can figure it out. That’s why you’re here.”


High achievers and pacesetting environments operate off intrinsic feedback. It makes “no feedback is good news” a forgone conclusion.

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