Taking Responsibility for Your Performance
The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be the person who knows how to ask. – Peter Drucker, author and consultant.
It's time for Scott's performance review – he walks in confidently, and he's expecting praise for all the hard work that he's been putting in.
However, he's devastated when his boss starts criticizing the quality of his work. Not only is she unhappy with Scott's performance, but she's also considering taking away some of his responsibilities.
Although this might sound like a drastic scenario, situations like this are more common than you might think. After all, if your boss or your clients were unhappy with your work, they'd tell you, right?
Well, not all of the time. This is why it's so important to be proactive about soliciting feedback. In this article, we'll look at how to ask for feedback, and how you can learn from it.
Benefits of Feedback
To improve your skills and grow professionally, it's essential that you get feedback on the work that you do. After all, you can't fix something that you don't know is broken! Doing this can help you to improve your performance and boost your career prospects. It may even lead to a promotion or to other opportunities down the road. Your self-confidence will grow, and it demonstrates to your boss that you truly care about your work.
On the other hand, not getting any feedback can make you think that your contributions aren't valued or noticed. This can make you question the importance of the work that you're doing and your overall competency. It can also damage your morale and self-esteem.
This is why it's important for you to take the initiative in asking for feedback, especially if the people you need it from aren't offering it on a regular basis. (For instance, some managers may only provide detailed feedback during annual performance reviews.)
An additional benefit is that when you ask for feedback, you do it on your terms. You're mentally ready to hear the good and the bad, and you're open to working hard to improve.
Overcoming a "Fear of Feedback"
Asking for feedback can be a bit intimidating – after all, you're opening yourself up to possible criticism. This can be difficult at first.
You can overcome this fear by adjusting your mindset. Remember that no one is perfect – all of us make mistakes, and there's always room for improvement. In this respect, you're the same as everyone else in your organization.
But, it takes courage to admit that you're not perfect, and to open yourself up to hear constructive comments. As such, if you ask for feedback, then you've already put yourself a step above your colleagues and rivals.
A great way of overcoming a fear of feedback is to use the ABC Technique. This can help you to see feedback for what it is – a useful learning tool that you can use to better yourself – rather than being upset and demoralized by it.
Who to Ask for Feedback
The most obvious person to ask for feedback is your boss. However, he or she isn't the only person who can give you useful feedback.
Your colleagues will likely have some great insights into your performance. They probably notice things about your work that you and your boss might overlook. (You can offer to give feedback to them as well.)
You can also ask your customers for feedback. This shows them that you care about your relationship and the work you do for them. It also gives you a chance to address any issues before they lose confidence in you, and take their business elsewhere.
Additionally, you can ask vendors and suppliers for feedback – any insights that improve your working relationships can be valuable.
It can be hard for other people to give you feedback, especially if it's constructive criticism. They most likely want to help but they probably also don't want to hurt your feelings! Do your best to put them at ease, so that they can be honest with you.
How to Ask for Feedback
We'll now look at how you can ask for feedback effectively:
1. Consider the Timing
First, think about why you want feedback, so that you can time your request appropriately. For instance, do you want feedback on your general performance, or on a specific project, task, or event?
If you need feedback on general performance, then you can ask for it at any sensible time. However, if you need feedback on something specific, such as the meeting you just led or the report you just submitted, it's most helpful to ask for it right after the event takes place. This immediacy will ensure that you get the most accurate picture of your performance.
2. Be Specific
Whenever you ask for feedback, be as specific as possible.
General questions such as "How am I doing?" will most likely receive general answers. You'll get better feedback by asking specific questions such as "Have my weekly reports been as thorough as you want them to be?"
You can also ask for a specific action to take. For instance, you could ask, "What's one thing I could do, in your opinion, to improve here?"
If you're unsure about why the other person is giving you a specific type of feedback, or if you feel that person might have jumped to the wrong conclusions, then ask further questions. It's important to clarify any feedback while the person is giving it; if you don't, you'll just stew over it later, and may even jump to some incorrect conclusions yourself.
3. Be Graceful
If you receive negative feedback, it's tempting to provide an excuse for your behavior or to point the finger of blame at someone else.
Therefore, it's important to learn how to handle criticism with grace. Remember, you asked for this opportunity to improve! Be open and diplomatic in your responses, and thank the other person for his or her time and effort.
4. Really Listen
When you receive feedback, you might instantly start thinking of excuses to explain your behavior, or you might start planning what you're going to say when the other person has finished speaking.
So, make an effort to listen in detail to him when receiving feedback. Use Active Listening so that you get the full measure of what he is saying.
How to Use Feedback Effectively
Feedback is only useful when you take the next step and actually do something with it.
Explore the feedback that you receive before you take action on it. This will help you to understand why your behavior needs to change. (You may find the Feedback Matrix useful for thinking about this.)
Once you better understand the feedback, come up with a plan to use it. Ask yourself how you're going to improve, and write out the steps you need to take.
This can then become an important personal goal. For instance, imagine your boss gave you some useful feedback at the end of your last presentation; she said you need to work on your presentation manner, especially your nerves. You could make this a goal, and commit to spending some time on it so that you can improve your presentation skills.
When Feedback Is Unfair
Some of the feedback you receive will be useful and will motivate you to perform better. However, some may be the opposite – either unusable or downright unfair.
Unfair feedback is often harsh, personal, and generalized, and it's likely to be more of a personal attack than a sincere desire to help you improve. You can learn strategies for dealing with this situation in our article, dealing with unfair criticism.
If you're a manager, make sure that you're giving your team members the feedback that they need to improve. To learn how to give effective feedback, go through our Bite-Sized Training session on giving feedback, or read our article on the same subject.
Feedback can be incredibly useful if you want to grow, both personally and professionally. It's important to realize that you'll often need to ask for feedback.
Be specific about what you want to know when you ask for feedback. Ask questions to clarify anything that you're unsure about, and be graceful when receive the feedback. Keep in mind that it's often as difficult to give feedback as it is to hear it. With that in mind, make sure that you say "thank you"!
After you've received feedback, take time to understand the other person's comments and then come up with a plan on how to improve. The information that you receive through feedback can turn into goals that you can use to improve your career.