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Best Practices for Requesting Feedback from Colleagues

One of the traits of achievement zone leaders is that they love receiving feedback.  They use it to improve how they work and those around them.

But the problem is few people are taught how to provide really good, helpful feedback.  Mostly because they don't want to hurt people's feelings.  So it's either irrelevant "Oh, your hair looked a bit frizzy, but your presentation was great."  Or vague '"You did a pretty good job."  To the downright mean "You were sloppy and you should be ashamed of handing in such late work.  You are such an idiot."  Ouch!

And then of course is the other big issue that so many of us don't like receiving feedback.  Probably because we had bad parents, bosses or teachers who wielded nasty, spiteful criticism as an improvement tool.

The truth is we need regular feedback to inform us of how we are tracking, in order to motivate us to stay the course.  Many of us need to feel that we are making progress and that our work is contributing to something important.  Providing an important sense of momentum.  Reinforcing we are doing the right things or needing to change our approach.  When we dont receive feedback, or receive it after an activity is performed, it negatively impacts our self-confidence and sense of achievement. 

So no matter how you feel about feedback - it is so beneficial to your personal development.

I believe I can always tell how much a person will improve by how they embrace feedback.  If they shrug it off or make excuses, it provides me with a little warning light that this isn't a person who will work well with me.  But if they listen, ask questions for further clarification and then show me what they have done to improve, I know I'm with a winner.

Requesting feedback is a powerful tool to improve your leadership.  The trick is that we have to learn how to ask for specific feedback in a way that is helpful to us and the sender.  Usually we tend to ask for more general feedback, so we get vague or well-intended responses that keep us in the dark.

The good news is that you can be in control of receiving it.  If you feel lost at sea because your boss doesn't give you any feedback (or nothing helpful), you can ask for it.  The trick is to make sure that you are specific about what you’re trying to improve, otherwise you will get limited value.

Working loosely off Dr Tasha Eurich's feedback frame from the book, Insight, there are seven important steps:

  1. Work out what specific area you want feedback.  Ideally, choose a behaviour that others tell you is working against you. eg: delegation, communicating tasks clearly or interrupting people when they're talking.  
  2. Select people who have your best interests at heart. People who will directly observe the behaviour and be beneficiaries of this behaviour. Don't select people you feel don't like you because they will potentially try to undermine you.  Think about: Who are the best people to give me this perspective?  Who can give me feedback that’s already really good at this behaviour?
  3. Request their feedback help.  Let these people know that you would like to receive monthly feedback to help you in your career goals.  You can say "I really like how you lead inclusive team meetings.  My goal is to be a team leader in the next 12 months, but I have a tendency to interrupt people as they talk.  Would you be willing to provide me with feedback on how I can improve this behaviour each month?"  And if they say "yes" and seem keen to help now you can follow up with "What have you noticed about my tendency to interrupt others?" or "What is one thing I can do to improve?”
  4. Schedule monthly feedback meetings -  Schedule in a 30 minute monthly coffee or virtual coffee meeting.  If there is no time for that, then organise to ask them a question at the end of a monthly meeting and have five minutes of their time.  Whatever works for both of you.
  5. Elicit specific feedback from people. Avoid asking "do you have any feedback for me?"  Remind people as to what behaviours you want feedback on.  Otherwise, you will get trash.  Great questions to ask monthly include:
    • What observations do you have for me over the last 30 days?

    • What suggestions do you have for me moving forward? 
    • Combined version(quick): What feedback do you have for me or observations for last 30 days?


6. Accept feedback graciously.  Make sure you listen carefully to their feedback and don't act defensively.  Otherwise, they won't want to help you out next month.  If you can, ask further questions for clarity.  And always end with “Thank you for that feedback” or "Thank you.  That's really helpful.  I now know what I need to work on."  That will encourage them to get even more specific next time or be more observant over the next month.  And of course, work on improving., so they don't feel like you aren't taking it seriously.

7. Keep going.  You often see young or new employees who are keen to get feedback and then once they reach a career milestone they shut it down.  Don't act like an oldie.  Keep going and improving.  Personal development is never done.  And if you think it is, then you might as well get ready for retirement!  

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