Eighty-five percent of managers think employees know how to ask for feedback if they want more. Which means, when you don’t ask, you signal to your manager that the feedback you’re currently receiving is just right.
We often think of feedback as something we wait to receive. The reality is that you are responsible for your own development. Since feedback is so critical, you can’t just sit and wait for it. If you’ve been following along in this feedback series, you’ve already learned that feedback is a two-way street, a relationship in which you have equal play. You’ve learned skills for clarifying vague feedback and looking for feedback in unexpected places. Let’s round out your toolbox with tips and language for asking for feedback. If you’re ready to get serious about your development, focus on these three easy strategies to ensure you get the feedback you need to succeed.
Ask for Advice Instead
You just finished a big meeting at work. It went well and you ask your manager, “do you have any feedback?” If you’re lucky, they might highlight something they liked, but often being put on the spot to deliver feedback can cause a person to draw a blank or be unsure of what to say. Instead, try asking for advice. This is a low-stakes way of getting their perspective. By shifting the focus to them instead of you, they can share more freely, giving you valuable information you can use to get better.
Now, I’m not suggesting you trade “do you have any feedback” with “do you have any advice for me?” Instead, identify something specific and then get curious:
- Have you ever experienced _________ before? How did you handle that?
- I noticed _____________. How might you do that differently?
- I wanted to create/accomplish ______________. How would you go about that?
In this way, you’re able to learn how they would approach a situation you’re facing. Consider how their responses compare to the course of action you took. What’s different? What’s the same? How might you do things differently next time?
While asking for advice can be a good way to glean feedback, it may not always give you exactly what you’re looking for. Try experimenting with using specific questions. First, what do you want to know more about? It’s tempting to say “everything”, but don’t. Think of what you want to know more about today. I like to think about this as “what one area should I focus on right now that will help me grow the most?”.
Now that you have your area of focus, pick one question — and only one. This is not an interrogation. Here are a few ideas:
- What did you like most about ________?
- What’s one thing I could differently next time to increase impact or to __________?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how well did I ____________? What’s one thing I could do differently next time to move it up one number?
While you may be tempted to ask your manager for feedback, I encourage you to look outside your leadership team as well. Your peers and clients have great insights to share, too. Aside from your manager, who else can you ask for feedback in your area of focus?
Build it into Your Processes
Gathering feedback takes intentionality and effort. Double down by building in processes to encourage others to build a habit of giving feedback so you don’t always have to pull for it.
1. Hold after-action reviews
Hold after action reviews or project debriefs at the end of projects or milestones. Standardizing your process can help make it routine and easy for team members to participate regularly. Try these questions to jump start your next debrief:
- What were we trying to accomplish?
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- What insights can we gain and apply to future projects?
Not a team lead? Don’t count yourself out. You don’t need permission to get feedback or ask questions. Suggest the project lead facilitate a formal debrief or connect casually with team members to focus on how you can continue to contribute going forward.
2. Tell them their feedback mattered
People want to know their efforts have an impact. If you want to get more feedback, lead the way, and tell your feedback givers that their insights mattered. Share what you did with their insights or give kudos to team members for sharing feedback with you. This will encourage them to continue to provide feedback.
As a final note, feedback can be uncomfortable, but don’t let it be. Remember, feedback is one person’s perspective about what already happened. You don’t have a time machine, but you do have the ability to make different choices going forward. So, take charge and make sure you’re getting the feedback you need to be the best you.
Dr. Jamie Crews is certified Senior HR professional with nearly two decades of public sector HR experience. She specializes in strategic talent management with an emphasis in leadership and organizational development. Jamie helped establish and now leads the County of Orange’s first Organizational Development function. As an experienced change practitioner, Jamie has led large scale organizational changes, talent development and initiatives, and served as a coach to senior leaders. She loves partnering with leaders to maximize their potential and that of their team. Her research focus is on women in leadership, with an emphasis on public sector leaders. Connect with her on LinkedIn!
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