It’s hard to argue against the benefits of asking for feedback. Only by finding out other’s perceptions of your performance can you make the appropriate adjustments.
As this Harvard Business Review article points out, asking for feedback is an invaluable learning tool that we should use as a coaching device for ourselves and for others.
Recently, at the end of one of our RSM Step Up monthly coaching sessions, Jess, one of our members, asked: “How could I get my colleagues to tell me the negative things, not only the positive things?”
It’s not always easy to get people to give you useful feedback. As a matter of fact, we could almost divide people in two groups. Those ready to commit honesticide (homicide by honesty) who would tell you the harshest truths without regard for the consequences, and those who’d rather protect the relationship and hold back telling you anything that could potentially offend you.
The thing is, people from the second group could be your best allies in fulfilling your career goals. If they shared with you opportunities for improvement you could substantially accelerate your growth. The secret lies in knowing how to ask for feedback.
The art of asking for feedback
Asking for feedback and getting all the feedback is an art. Because you must convey that you want to hear the truth and that you are not just fishing for compliments. And so that we are clear, the art is not only in asking for feedback but in knowing how to receive it gracefully.
Here are a couple of examples that will help you move from receiving purely positive feedback to one that includes some negative aspects you can work on.
Asking for feedback the right way
Q— What did you think of my participation on the panel?
A— Wonderful! You had great energy up there!
Q— Is there something I could’ve done differently to be more impactful?
A— Well, perhaps you could’ve highlighted a bit more your team’s participation in reaching the goals.
Q— Ok. Anything else you would’ve done if you had been in my place?
A— Mmmm… Maybe I would’ve avoided making a joke about how badly women drive. I know it was a joke but it’s a stereotype and some people found it offensive.
Q— I’d like you to give me feedback on my performance and areas where I could improve.
A— You’ve grown a lot in the last six months and you’ve taken risks that have exposed you to new experiences. I think you’re on the right path.
Q— Thanks! It’s true that I’ve grown a lot but I have the impression that some of my colleagues don’t feel comfortable with me and I can’t figure out why. What am I missing?
A— Not sure what you’re referring to…
Q— They don’t ask me to take part in their projects and although they are very diplomatic with me, something is off. What have you noticed? What have you heard them say about me? It would really help me understand their perception of me to make any necessary changes.
A— Well, sometimes you come across as very critical of others. I’m not sure if it’s because you have high expectations or why but people resent it when you seldom have a word of recognition for a job well done, yet you always have a critical comment at the ready.
Q— Ah… thanks for your honesty. Sometimes, I think my biggest contribution to the team is to notice what doesn’t work. You know, what works well already works. It’s a mistake on my part and I will change.
The key of getting this kind of more nuanced feedback is to be vulnerable and dig beyond the initial comments. Make the person feel comfortable enough with you so they take the risk of sharing any negative feedback that they anticipate you taking too hard. And of course, the second key is that this exercise only works if you are open and drop any defenses. The moment you start denying what someone is telling you, you can be sure that person will never talk to you honestly again.
Asking for feedback has so many advantages that once you get over the natural aversion most people have to hearing constructive criticism you’ll identify many more opportunities to continue your development.
This is exactly the type of coaching we do at the RSM Step Up Program. Check it out!