This is a relationship business. How many times during a business day do we hear that, whether we are in a manufacturing plant or a consulting firm. With the people aspects of work on every executive’s high priority list, it seems we are well-advised to get better at certain key relationship skills. Giving and receiving feedback is one of these critical skills to master in my view because you learn about yourself while you are bringing awareness to others and if done well, strengthening bonds. Done poorly, however, and relationships can be damaged. I think because so few of us know how to do this well, we avoid it completely. It’s time to get great at this skill. This is a three-part series you can use as a guide with some helpful tips.
Soliciting and Receiving Feedback
Ask often – You can arrange for feedback sessions at regular intervals. More informally, ask for feedback during or soon after specific situations. You could include feedback as part of regular meetings with your boss and subordinates.
Ask for comments on your behavior – “What can I do more of?” and “What can I do less of?” and “What should I keep doing?” Ask these three simple questions of your peers, bosses, and team members.
Ask a varied audience – If you only ask one person for feedback, it might be worth hearing, but wait until you have more opinions before dramatically changing anything. Ask your fans and your enemies, your superiors, and your direct reports. Listen for repeated themes. That’s where your best growth opportunities will be.
Be specific – The more you direct the feedback, the richer it will be. Maybe you have a goal in mind. You might say, “What do you think I need to do to be ready for a promotion in six months?” Ask for the feedback that will help you most.
Try this as a script to gather broad, developmental feedback:
“I’m trying to be more effective in my role. What do you think I should start doing that I’m not doing now?
What do you think I should stop doing that I am doing?
What should I be sure to continue doing that you think is going well?
Respond with “Thank you” or “Help me understand that” — the only responses if you want to keep the channels open. It’s not a two-way discussion – you’re just taking in information. If you get defensive, or start explaining yourself, stop. There will be time for that as you process the information later, on your own. In the feedback session, it’s time for taking it all in.
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