While many of us understand the need for feedback to improve ourselves personally and professionally, we often don't understand the best ways to get it.
We can tend to ask too generically ("what feedback do you have for me?") or maybe we don't ask at all!
Often we will get unsolicited feedback from supervisors or colleagues, under the guise of "constructive criticism," but this is not always the feedback that is really most helpful and necessary for our own personal and professional growth. As much as we may need that kind of information to do our current jobs, we also need good information that helps us grow and prepare for the future.
Feedback is important. It helps us to get clarity about our gifts and areas where we need more development. It helps us refine our creative projects and beef up our skills.
Feedback can also be a great way to build our circles of connection. By engaging in more robust feedback conversations, we strengthen our relationships with people in our networks and can even be led to new connections.
So how can we do a better job of getting important feedback?
1. Create a structure for requesting feedback.
You need to start the feedback process by making it an intentional part of your schedule that is connected to your personal and professional goals.
You could try looking at each day's events and considering where you might request feedback on a particular project or professional development goal you may have.
Or make it a weekly goal to get substantive feedback on at least one area of focus.
The idea here is to tie your feedback requests to your personal and professional goals and then to intentionally build those request into your life.
2. Get specific.
As this Fast Company article points out, going around asking for general feedback won't get you very far. It's not another person's job to know where you want or need input on something.
Further, when you ask for general feedback, you are most likely to get information that's related to the other person's agenda, as opposed to information that is useful for what you want to achieve.
Instead, be prepared to ask specific questions:
- I'm trying to improve my listening skills in meetings. How do you think I did in that last session?
- I'm working on this project and I'm trying to find the best ways to get buy-in from people in your department. What thoughts do you have about how I could do that?
- One area I want to develop in this year is in presentation skills. What do you think are my strengths and weaknesses in presentations? What advice or resources do you have that you think would be helpful for me?
Giving people an area of focus helps guide them toward what you're looking for and gives them something meatier to connect to. It also ensures that feedback will be related to the areas you are trying to develop. When you are specific in your questioning, it helps everyone.
3. Act and report back.
If someone has taken the time to give you feedback, I think it's also important to let them know how you acted on their advice and the results. This helps strengthen relationships and also gives you another opportunity to deepen your knowledge and understanding.
The report back needn't be long or complicated. If someone gave you a piece of advice on how to improve your presentation skills, then the next time you see them you can tell them that you tried it, that it worked and that you appreciate their help. Closing that loop is critical.
It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day and only receive feedback when someone else has decided you need it. But to grow and develop in our work and personal lives, we need to get more intentional and focused in connecting to the constructive criticism that will be most beneficial to us in meeting our own goals.
Getting good feedback is an important tool for building your career resilience. How are you regularly plugging into the great advice and knowledge around you?