Most people recognize the value of feedback, whether it is positive affirmation or constructive criticism. However, most managers don’t give enough feedback. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that 72% of people feel their performance would improve if they got more constructive feedback from their managers. This makes sense, because constructive feedback allows you to understand how others are perceiving you, and it gives you insight into potential blind spots. Since most managers don’t give their employees enough feedback, it is wise not to rely on your manager to do this for you. Although it may seem intimidating to request feedback, starting this conversation is a smart move.
The following tips will help you feel comfortable asking for feedback.
1) Think beyond your manager
The obvious place to look for feedback is to one’s direct supervisor. While they may have some very good insights, they shouldn’t be the only person you to go. They will give you a certain perspective, but it’s important to get a well-rounded view of your performance. Be sure to ask people who see you in different aspects of your responsibilities. For example, ask your peers, your clients, and those who report to you. While your manager should have a big picture view of your strengths and weaknesses, others around you will have had meaningful interactions with you and can therefore provide very useful thoughts on your performance.
2) Ask for specifics
One of the hurdles to getting enough feedback is the feeling that asking for feedback requires a lot of work from someone else. Especially if you want to ask your manager or another senior person, you should be very mindful of taking up too much of their time. One of the ways to ensure you aren’t asking for an extended conversation is to be very specific with your request. For example, if you are working on a specific development area, ask how you did with regards to that area on a recent project or in a relevant meeting. Something along the lines of, “I have been working on making my communications more concise. Can you offer any feedback on the recent project update I sent out?” That is much more targeted than generally asking for feedback. As a result, it requires a lot less from the other person. Being specific will not only allow you to get more helpful feedback, but it alleviates the concern that you are taking too much time from a busy person.
3) Timing is Important
Putting some thought into when to ask for feedback will have a big impact on the quality of the feedback you get and whether you annoy the other person in the process. The first thing to consider is whether to set up a separate meeting or just find a spare moment after a meeting. There is no one right way to do this, so consider your company culture and your manager’s style. If they are someone who usually likes to have meetings scheduled, follow their lead and set up a short meeting to discuss feedback (I recommend 15 minutes). If, on the other hand, they tend to pop by your desk for short conversations on a regular basis, it’s safe to assume you could do the same for this conversation. The second thing to think about is how their day is going. You want to avoid asking for feedback on a day when they have an important meeting, a big presentation, or an urgent problem. While this may sound obvious, it can be difficult to think these things through if you get too wrapped up in worrying about the feedback. Therefore, it’s worth it to take a few minutes to consider the context and map out a good strategy for the logistics of gathering the feedback.