Getting the feedback we need

Don’t push for feedback – pull it out.

We all need feedback to learn and grow. But if we wait on others to get these valuable insights, we may end up waiting. And waiting. How can we get focused, frequent information that helps us improve — especially if others are reluctant to share feedback in a timely and effective way?

With the right amount of initiative and intention, we can “pull” feedback from others to get the right results. And while it’s not necessary to apply all of these guidelines at once, combining them will boost the value of your feedback request — not to mention the impact it can produce.

Make a specific ask

When asking for feedback, be specific about the type of information you’re seeking. For example, are you looking to validate your work? Gain support for a proposal? Find alternative solutions to a problem? Ask yourself: “What am I really after here?” Gaining this clarity will sharpen the feedback you’re hoping to receive.

Make it easy for others to share

How we ask for feedback matters too. Rather than framing your request too broadly (“I’m looking for feedback – can you share some?“), consider making a more targeted request. For example, someone looking to improve presentation skills could ask, “How would you rate the quality of my pacing?” or “Did you find my hand gestures convincing or distracting?” People typically resist giving feedback because they’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. You can help them bypass their fears by providing a “safe” entry point and directing them exactly where to go.

Ask the right person 

Feedback isn’t about volume, but value. It’s better to receive just a bit of useful information than a lot of useless chatter. Getting too many strands of feedback can actually become confounding and counter-productive. “Feedback binging” may end up clouding your judgement and costing you willing partners. Once your feedback-giver feels like a generic choice, not a trusted source, he or she is unlikely to take the time and effort to share meaningful and actionable insights in the future.

Who you ask for feedback makes all the difference. Choose the right person (or people, if it’s a select group) to approach. They should be capable of addressing your request (knowledge), familiar with your past record (history), and positioned to help you move forward (experience). Seeking insights from those adjacent to your work can also bring unexpected benefits, so don’t be afraid to peer beyond the box.

Give a little nudge 

 Even if you’ve carefully framed your feedback request and target, it’s likely you’ll still be met with the occasional soft resistance. If you receive feedback that’s too broad or canned, don’t give up and stop there. With courtesy but confidence, pull it from others. You could say, “What specifically did I do well?” or “What is one thing I can do better next time?” Probing will ensure the conversation goes beyond pleasantries and actually yields helpful insights.

In a perfect world, we’d get the feedback we most want at the moment we need it most. Until that blissful time comes, there are steps we can take to ensure that we continue to make progress in our personal and professional lives, attracting the feedback that’s designed to bring out our best.

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