Read this chapter of my book for free about a member of the leadership team who was looking for feedback.

#20: Want feedback with value? Be specific.

“People who do good work get laid off. It’s politics. I’m a scientist, not a politician, and that makes me nervous.” Max and I were in a small conference room for a coaching session.

I can’t improve if I don’t know what to improve

He leaned back. “By politics I mean it’s who figures out how to get along with the key players. I don’t know if I’m getting along or not. I need feedback. How do I get it?”

“Have you ever asked for feedback?” I enquired, “and do you know how to ask for it?”

He answered no to both.

I asked, “What do you want feedback on? Do you want it on you the scientist, you the person, or you as part of the leadership team?”

“First, I want feedback on their impressions of me personally. Am I seen as flexible and approachable? Then on me the scientist/team member, to see if they think I contribute in meaningful ways and am doing my job.”

I told him to reflect for a moment. “Before you ask someone for feedback, play the role of the feedback giver. If someone asked you for the kind of feedback you want, would you give it?”

A long pause. “I’m fearful of giving feedback. Even if I can get past the anxiety, it depends on what they are asking and how they ask. The relationship may be at stake, so it’s easier to go softly.”

An idea on how to ask for feedback

Max’s answers made him aware he was seeking information about himself that would make his co-workers uneasy.

Professional who wants feedbackI offered this thought: “Here’s what makes feedback easier to ask for easier for others to provide. If you suspect there is an area where you could improve, you ask for their input on this specific area.”

“It makes people uncomfortable to ask a wide open question such as what do you think I should work on to be more effective this puts them in a position of judging you.”

“Here is an example–picture this in your mind. Mike comes to you and says ‘I think I lose people in conversations and I’m not sure why what one or two suggestions do you have on how you’ve seen others improve?’”

“That makes sense. Asking in this way would reduce my anxiety.” Max said, “What I like is the other person has approached me. Mike was clear on what he wanted. Now I can see how I can get feedback doing the same thing. Approach them and be specific. This method lowers the risk.”

“You got it!” I said, adding, “When you get feedback, thank them. Avoid the temptation to improve on their suggestions or drive the conversation out.”

“Skeptics in the feedback process see asking for feedback and self-improvement resolutions as Hollow. Overcome this and bring them along with you by saying, “It will be hard for me to change and I will need your help. Be my mirror, reflect back to me when I’m following your suggestions and when I don’t. Your feedback about my behavior is key to my change.

“What you’re doing is involving them on a regular basis. So often we think in terms of one and done, such as reading a book or going to a workshop. Changing behavior or breaking a habit takes repetition, with correction, over a longer period. Capturing feedback on an ongoing basis is your quality control loop.”

“Max you’re a scientist,” I said, with a smile. “You do an experiment, look at the results and try again. Do the same with people. You need to know the results or impact you have on the people you work with.”

Another benefit of feedback is to improve and strengthen your job security. Losing a job is a fear that can be overcome by knowing how you are doing versus waiting for a distant future performance review or simply hoping you’re okay.”

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