Let me ask you something… how do you feel about getting feedback? In particular “constructive feedback”. Did you just screw up your face or wince? Yep, I get it.
When you’ve put your heart and soul into something, whether it’s a project, a presentation or something else, the last thing you want is for someone to turn up with their thoughts on how it went. Mostly you just want to hear how great it was, and how impressive you are… then head out for a celebratory beverage. Am I right?
Do you equate getting feedback with (often) unqualified and (potentially) ill-intended criticism? And, the thought of proactively inviting others to tell you what you’ve done wrong is something you just can’t stomach.
The problem is, without feedback you can’t continue to improve. If you’re striving to progress in your career, you need feedback. And, if you’re looking for more meaning or to make a change in your career, it’s a truly valuable tool.
Like pieces of a puzzle, feedback helps create a clearer picture
Like most things, if you take control of requesting feedback, you set the agenda and limit the likelihood of receiving “random” (and potentially hurtful) thoughts.
Asking for feedback demonstrates initiative and that you’re open and interested in improving your skills. It underscores your dedication, commitment and desire to learn and grow.
When you’re job searching or thinking about career change, asking for thoughts, advice and guidance is one of the best ways to develop relationships with those who can help you. People love being asked what they think about things or for their advice on how to do something. And doing so, quickly establishes rapport.
Being open to and receiving feedback increases your self-awareness. You become more aware of what you do well, areas you can improve, and how other perceive you. When you’re feeling stuck, it’s one of the quickest ways to focus your efforts and adjust your strategy, if required.
How to ask for feedback at work (without crushing your spirit)
1. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR ASK
Being specific about your feedback request enables you to better control the situation and minimise any emotional impacts. Set yourself objectives for the feedback and what you hope to gain. You want to walk away with an accurate picture and some tangible actions you can implement. Ask questions that support your objectives and avoid those that are simply seeking validation or an ego-boost.
2. AVOID THE SCATTER-GUN APPROACH
Here’s the thing Helen… everyone (and I mean everyone!) has an opinion and if you ask them, they’ll be happy to give it. So, it’s important you select the “right” people to ask for feedback. Find those who’s thoughts you trust and who’s views are relevant for the situation. And aim for a well-rounded perspective by asking peers, team members and (if suitable) clients as well as your direct boss. If you can, let people know beforehand, that you’ll be requesting feedback.
3. ASK REALLY GOOD QUESTIONS
This might sound simple but there’s actually a fine art to asking the right questions in order to get better answers. The best way to understand different perspectives is by asking great questions. Posing specific, open-ended questions and asking follow-up questions to probe more deeply or reflect back your understanding, exponentially increases the likelihood of receiving valuable and useful feedback. If in doubt, use the old go-tos, “please tell me more” or “can you explain further”.
4. LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND, NOT DEBATE
If you’ve asked someone for feedback, you’ve immediately set the expectation you’re willing to hear what they have to say. This means listening, really listening, not interrupting them and not spending the time they’re talking formulating how you’ll defend yourself. Listening is something of a lost art but it’s a helpful skill when it comes to receiving feedback. Accept you don’t know it all already. Listen to learn and understand, rather than trying to explain or validate your actions.
5. REFLECT AND DECIDE WHAT TO DO
While feedback might be a “gift”, it’s worth remembering that not all of it will be valuable or useful. It’s also important not to just select individual pieces of feedback that suit your purpose. Collate the feedback you receive and look for trends. Consider the consequences of using it or ignoring it. Ultimately what happens next is your choice.
Let the opportunities of getting feedback outweigh your fears, embrace the process and be prepared to listen more. Are you ready to embrace the feedback process as part of improving your working life or discovering what’s next for you? I’d love to help you work it out.