It is very common for employees at all levels to feel that they don’t receive enough feedback. Even in organizations that have very rigorous performance management processes, everyone seems to still crave more ongoing feedback from a wider range of sources. Yet it is also rare for people to take ownership for obtaining feedback from others.
Feedback is an important element of building self-awareness and a critical aid to personal productivity and professional development.
This article provides some tips for eliciting feedback from others and helping to ensure that you continue to receive ongoing feedback.
Steps for Eliciting Constructive Feedback
- Ask: You first have to make it clear that you want feedback and that you are receptive to it. If you have already recognized that you don’t receive enough feedback, then you need to “go get it”. Think about those people who are in a position to observe you and ask them for their input.
- Make it easy for others to give you feedback: When asking for feedback, it is important to keep in mind that you are asking someone to do you a favour–one that requires courage on the feedback provider’s part– so you need to make the process as easy as possible for him/her. It’s natural for people who work together, to be “polite” and careful not to upset their colleagues. This is particularly true if there is a positive working relationship. Feedback givers often fear a backlash. It is important for you to let your colleagues know that while there may be times when constructive feedback is difficult to hear, you respect them for assisting you with your development. Showing your respect for their contribution includes setting the time aside to have a feedback discussion when it is convenient for them and ensuring they have time to organize their thoughts.
- Listen: When receiving feedback it is critical to pay attention and show that you are listening. Especially when you have asked for the feedback. This is not the time to explain or rationalize your behaviour—you can come back later to your explanations if you must. Blaming circumstances or other external factors will get in the way of truly hearing the feedback. Take time to genuinely listen for how the other person saw your behaviour and what impact it had on them or others around you. Asking for clarification or examples is fine as long as you are careful not to put the feedback provider on the defensive because of a lack of “evidence” for their perception. Paraphrasing the feedback is a helpful way of demonstrating that you have heard the message. Body language is important when listening effectively– be sure to make eye contact and not look away.
- Thank the feedback provider: Simply say “thanks” for the time taken by the feedback provider and the candour of their comments. This is not the time for big promises; just acknowledge the value of the feedback to you and promise to consider it in pursuing your personal development. You may want to ask the feedback provider if you can “complete the loop” with them by talking to them at a future date about your improvement plans and how their feedback specifically helped you.
Trying it Out
How can you improve your skill in eliciting feedback? Try it out. Identify two people from whom you would value feedback and ask for it.
Below is a guide you can use to structure your conversation. Of course you should personalize your conversation to make it less “formal” and more “you”.
I am working on my continuing personal development. In particular, I would like to get better at____________________________________________________.
As we work together over the next few weeks, I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you could give me.
I see my current abilities in this area are as follows:
Things I believe I do well….
Things I would like to get better at….
You may have some other ideas.
Can we meet to discuss any relevant behaviours you have observed?
Thank you for assisting me with my development.