I recently attended a women’s leadership workshop where we touched on the topic of giving and receiving feedback. In my opinion, feedback is really at the core of success when it comes to making an impact and working in teams. By giving and receiving feedback, we’re not only improving ourselves, but those around us.
But the problem tends to be that “feedback” is a very abstract word. We need feedback (that much is clear), but the how to get it tends to be pretty fuzzy. Since joining my team a little less than a year ago, I’ve felt successful in my role, in my opinion, due to constantly having these “feedback conversations.”
So today I’m sharing five tips to get those conversations rolling.
1 ) Ask for honesty
I’m the type of person that does best with direct (to the point) feedback. I like to know that when you tell me I’m doing a good job, it’s because you believe it, and not because you’re getting ready to sugar coat what I need to do.
When it comes to asking for feedback from new people (maybe a co-worker or a new manager), I like to start the conversation by asking for honesty. I say something along the lines of “I really value your insight and would love to get your feedback on how I’m doing with project X. Please don’t worry about hurting my feelings or trying to be too nice. I’d love to have an open and honest conversation.” It just lets them know that I’m prepared for what they have to say.
2 ) Ask for advice, not feedback
Sometimes the success (or failure) of a conversation is based on how the questions are framed.During the workshop I attended, someone mentioned that asking for advice instead of feedback puts the other person at ease. Something about the connotation just seems like less of a commitment.
For example: Let’s say I have to pitch and present an idea for a project. Afterwards, while I may have felt good about the presentation, I still want to check in with one of my co-workers that had been in the room. I casually approach them and ask something along the lines of “Do you have a few minutes? I would love your advice. I’m reflecting on the presentation I just gave, and was wondering if you had any advice for what I can improve on for the future.” It’s totally casual and you’ll get some good insight. Asking for feedback might change the dynamic of the conversation and turn it into a drawn out formal-fest.
3 ) If the conversation gets shut down, it’s your job to reopen it
I think we have all been in situations where we ask for feedback and we get the response of “You’re doing great. Keep doing great work!” While that’s totally great, that doesn’t give you any insight or help you improve. In those cases, a simple re-framing of the question can once again change the conversation.
For example, let’s imagine a scenario where you ask for feedback and you get shut down:
You: I just wanted to get your feedback on how I’m doing overall.
Manager: You’re doing really great! Keep up the good work!
You: I’m glad to hear it! But is there anything that I could be doing better?
Note: By asking if there’s something that you could be doing “better” you’re turning something negative “what am I doing wrong?” into something positive “how can I improve?” Most people at this point will open up and at least have something minor to suggest.
4 ) Get specific
I think that getting specific is really a two-way street. When you go into a conversation asking for feedback, be prepared for what you want feedback on (a project, a leadership role, etc. – be specific!), since starting with an extremely general question doesn’t typically get you anywhere.
You should also request that the person giving you feedback be specific. For example, if my manager says that I can come across as frazzled and unprepared, I would counter with, “can you please give me a few examples of how I’m doing that?” (Until you get the “how” the feedback will remain an abstract animal).
5) Change by example
So let’s say you’re at the point where you’ve received feedback and you have a good idea of what you need to work on. The last step to me is figuring out who does this well and how I can learn from them. It’s as simple as saying “I’ll absolutely work on being more detail oriented, is there anyone on our team that you think does this well?” It’ll show you how you can improve on that piece of the puzzle.
What have your experiences been with asking for feedback?