49 Best Quotes on Feedback

Great feedback is a critical element of best-practice performance management. This week, I’m sharing some of my favourite quotes on feedback – from Winston Churchill to Elon Musk, there’s some powerful thinking here on the how and why of giving better feedback.

At Cognology, as we design our product suite that allows hundreds of thousands of employees to give and receive feedback more effectively, these quotes inspire me every day.

They’re also great to read before giving feedback to your team (you’ll always find some advice appropriate to the situation you’re facing).

Have you got a favourite quote on feedback that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below – I’ll make sure it’s included.

49 quotes on the power of feedback

1. “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
– Bill Gates

2. “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
– Frank A. Clark

3. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
– Ken Blanchard

4. “Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let
people see you value both feedback and ideas.”
– Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

5. “Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.”
– Tim Fargo

6. “What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.”
– Anonymous

7. “There is no failure. Only feedback.”
– Robert Allen

8. “Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.”
– Ed Batista

9. “No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”
– Jim Yong Kim

10. “True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”
– Daniel Kahneman

11. “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
– Elon Musk

12. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw

13. “Examine what is said and not who speaks.”
– African proverb

14. “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”
– Tom Rath

15. “There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.”
– Mary Kay Ash

16. “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
– Winston Churchill

17. “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
– Elbert Hubbard

18. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
– Yehuda Berg

19. “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
– Tony Robbins

20. “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
– Paul J. Meyer

21. “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
– Buddha

22. “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”
– Jim Rohn

23. “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
– Winston Churchill

24. “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
– Sydney J. Harris

25. “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
– Brian Tracy

26. “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”
– Bill Gates

27. “Why did God give me two ears and one mouth? So that I will hear more and talk less.”
– Leo Rosten

28. “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Joyce Brothers

29. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
– John Quincy Adams

30. “Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”
– B. R. Ambedkar

31. “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
– Albert Einstein

32. “Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
– Bruce Lee

33. “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
– Harvey S. Firestone

34. “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

35. “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”
– Kim Collins

36. “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
– Tom Peters

37. “Never be afraid to fail. Failure is only a stepping stone to improvement. Never be overconfident because that will block your improvement.”
– Tony Jaa

38. “He who busies himself with things other than improvement of his own self becomes perplexed in darkness and entangled in ruin. His evil spirits immerse him deep in vices and make his bad actions seem handsome.”
– Ali ibn Abi Talib

39. “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”
– John Locke

40. “There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.”
– Oscar De La Hoya

41. “Improvement begins with I.”
– Arnold H. Glasow

42. “The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.”
– George Will

43. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
– Marilyn vos Savant

44. “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”
– Margaret Fuller

45. “It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.”
– Immanuel Kant

46. “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.”
– Carl Jung

47. “To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it.”
– Ed Batista

48. “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”
– Carol Dweck

49. “We can’t just sit back and wait for feedback to be offered, particularly when we’re in a leadership role. If we want feedback to take root in the culture, we need to explicitly ask for it.”
– Ed Batista

Recommended articles on feedback

The psychology behind better workplace feedback (15 surprising facts)

Find out what the research shows on the type of feedback people prefer and how to deliver it.

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One on one conversations

Conducting one-on-one check-in meetings

One on one check-in’s are a vital part of a leader’s role and feedback process.

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360 Degree Feedback Software graph

360 Degree Feedback System

Online 360 degree feedback software and tools to make it easy to run small scale processes or fully integrate 360 into your talent management processes.

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Image Credits:

Bill Gates World Economic Forum Annual Meeting New York 2012 CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Elon Musk – The Summit 2013 By Heisenberg Media (Flickr: Elon Musk – The Summit 2013) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tony Robbins The Twitter Conference – Tony Robbins by Brian Solis, on Flickr
Bruce Lee By Johnson Lau CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons