Category Archives: Managing Up

3 Tips for Responding to Critical Feedback

I have written previously about how to give critical feedback effectively, and how to ask for it. The other part of the equation is what to do once you receive critical feedback. It can be emotionally difficult, even if you asked for it, so it’s worth it to take some time to figure out how to process feedback thoroughly and make the most use of it.

1) Reflect on Whether It’s True

When we get feedback, most of us tend to immediately decide whether we agree with it or not. This impulse is totally natural, and it comes from a good place — having a strong identity. However, sometimes the feedback that can have the most impact is feedback that doesn’t fit with our view of ourselves. Feedback that takes you out of your own idea about what you’re “good” and “bad” at is the type of feedback that leads to real growth. If we wanted to rely on our own views, we wouldn’t have bothered to ask for feedback in the first place, right? So even though it’s hard, pause when you get the feedback, and resist making a snap judgment about whether you agree. Let yourself think about it and really reflect on it without judgment or anger. You may end up in the same place, and that’s ok, the process will still have been worth it.

2) Get Multiple Views

Since we do all have a very clear vision of ourselves, it’s easy to think that our view is the only view. However, it’s important to separate intentions from impact. By intentions I mean how you meant something to sound and how you thought you were coming across.  Often in the face of critical feedback, it’s easy to defend yourself by clarifying what your intentions were. While intentions are important, sticking to this point will blind you to the real area for improvement: understanding how you were actually perceived. Therefore, the greatest value in the feedback is that it will help you understand how others perceive you. Since one person’s view may not be the majority view, it’s a good idea to ask other people.  Don’t just go for quantity. Instead, think about who you trust, who knows you well, and who is skilled or experienced in the attribute in question. Then ask for their opinions, and keep an open mind for what you might hear. By doing this and asking for their honest views, you will get a much more accurate picture of yourself. Feedback is, after all, just a collection of opinions, so the best way to get an accurate picture is to ask more people.  While this can be uncomfortable, it is a very powerful thing, because it will allow you to make changes to your behavior that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

3) Get Specific

I covered this in my post about how to give critical feedback effectively, but in case the person you are working with doesn’t follow that guidance, the burden shifts to you to get the specifics you need. Asking for specifics can sound awfully similar to asking for proof, and you don’t want these questions to come across as defensive (another example of the importance between intent and impact). Therefore, a good way to start is by making it clear that you are asking for specifics because you really want to understand the feedback. Ask questions like, “What could I have done differently? When should I have done something that I didn’t do? What was my approach missing?” You want to ask whatever you need to in order to understand the feedback around not just this situation, but whatever the underlying principle is. Only by understanding the principle will you truly be able to carry the lesson forward into your future work.

Tell me: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?


How to: Get a Raise

A raise: everyone wants one, but how to get it? And more importantly, how to ask for a raise without jeopardizing your relationship with your manager. No one wants to come across as money hungry, but the reality is that taking initiative about your career and salary will have a major impact on your lifetime earning.

1) Ask for It
The most common reason that people don’t get the salary they want is because they don’t ask for it.  While the unique value you offer to your company is clear to you, it may not always in be in the forefront of your manager’s mind. They likely have other direct reports and other responsibilities to worry about. Many people assume that their hard work will be noticed and rewarded, so they feel that asking for a raise will be unnecessary or have a negative impact on how they are perceived. However, if done calmly and logically, negotiating for a raise could actually improve your manager’s opinion of you. Wouldn’t you want to work with someone who was eager to challenge themselves and confident in their strengths? I know I would.

2) Time it Right

Timing is very important when it comes to increasing your salary. Most people wait until the end of the review period to bring this up, which is a big mistake. By then, you don’t have any more time to prove you are deserving of a higher salary.  If there was something specific your manager was hoping to see from you and hasn’t, you won’t have time to correct this. Additionally, there is a lot of review and oversight that goes into setting yearly compensation. Your manager has most likely gone through rounds of reviews with her superiors and gotten approval from HR. If you wait until your review is about to be delivered, chances are your raise (or lack thereof) has already been determined.  So, to give yourself time to prove you are deserving of a higher salary, bring up your goals at the beginning of the review period. Be honest about what you you want to achieve in terms of responsibility and salary increases. It’s also a good idea to ask them to be specific about what they want to see from you in order to increase your salary.   For example, “I would like to be making $80,00 by this time next year. What do you think my biggest development areas are?  Which projects could I work on to build these skills and demonstrate that I can operate at a higher level?” By asking up front, you will ensure you are on the same page about what’s required to move into a bigger role and earn a higher salary. That way, you can spend your time working on what is most important, and by the time your next review period rolls around, you should have a very strong case for getting a raise.

3) Track Your Accomplishments

Once you have had a conversation with your boss and discussed your goals, don’t go silent. Keep the conversation open throughout the review period. Make sure you are checking in with your boss at least once a month to assess your progress. This will help you avoid getting out of sync with them by decision time. It is also incredibly important that you advocate for yourself. No one else is paying as much attention to your accomplishments as you are, so be sure to keep a running list of examples where you were successful. By staying in charge of your own development this way, you will have a tangible record at the end of the year. This is so much more powerful than relying on someone else’s memory and interpretation of events.


Dealing with a Difficult Boss: The Too-Distant Manager

While at first it may seem wonderful to have a boss who doesn’t keep close tabs on you, be careful not to be lulled into the trap of thinking that no news is good news. A boss who is too distant will not be able to give you the proper attention to guide your professional development. Additionally, they will not be close enough to accurately assess your job performance. This can have serious consequences at review time.  These three strategies will help you stay connected with your manager without requiring a large time commitment from either you or your boss.

1) Set Up a Regular Structure

Meeting with direct reports at regular intervals is a best practice, but despite this I know all too many people who do not have such meetings in place with their managers. Rather than waiting for your manager to request a meeting with you, take the initiative and ask to have a check-in meeting regularly. Even meeting once a month will do wonders for staying connected and ensuring you can update them on your work. Requesting this meeting will also show your boss that you are being proactive about your development. While they may not be of the mind to set this up themselves, most managers will appreciate the initiative and will gladly take the time to meet with their employees.


2) Be specific About What You Need

Once you have a regular cadence of meetings on the calendar, the next step is to make sure that you use your limited time with your boss wisely. While it may be helpful to just get “Face time” and build a relationship with your boss in these meetings, you can gain much more if you approach them with a solid agenda and strategy. Not only will this ensure that you get the guidance you need from them, but it will make it easier on your boss if you are very clear about where you need them to get involved. An example of what you could present to them is this:  “Here’s what I’m dealing with, here’s my plan to approach it, here are the risks, this is what I want your guidance/perspective on.”  This approach is preferable because you are giving them transparency into challenges you are facing, but you are coming with a plan and not asking them to solve your problems for you. Giving your boss insight into your plan will help them get to know you and your abilities. Be specific about where you want them to engage (or that you don’t need their help at this juncture). Once you have set up this background information in an organized way, a collaborative problem-solving conversation will flow naturally. Your boss will know what you are working on (and where you are adding value) and they will be very clear on what you need from them.

3) Get in Sync on Goals and Expectations

One of the biggest risks of having a boss who doesn’t manage closely is that you will be operating under different ideas about what success means in your role. It is in your best interest to talk to your boss directly about what his/her expectations are for your performance.  In this meeting, get as specific as possible. What are the metrics or benchmarks that will be used to evaluate your performance? What milestones would you need to hit in order to be considered for a raise or promotion? What are the key development areas that you need to focus on in order to move forward in your career? Don’t assume that your boss has a clear picture of these, be prepared to bring your view and have an open discussion. After the meeting, it is best to send a follow up email re-stating the expectations you have both agreed to. While this may seem like overkill, it is never a bad idea to have confirmation that you are on the same page. If you follow these steps, you should know exactly where you stand come review time.