How do you really know if you’re getting ahead?
Of course, there are your results. They’ll tell you if you’re on the right track. But if you really want to improve yourself and get ahead, you need to get the proper feedback. How to get the feedback you need to get ahead?
What feedback do you need?
The result of the feedback should be concrete, specific, explicit, and actionable. This kind of feedback enables you to improve something that relates to you and your goal.
You need the feedback to come from someone who is able to discern what is right for you, that is: what works for you. This is someone who is capable to judge the facts and also present them in a manner that is critical, but acceptable.
Feedback you need is based on appreciation
In order to be able to listen to a critical message (even to one you have invited) there has to be a measure of appreciation in the mix. If the feedback is too critical, most people will start to defend themselves or reject the message outright. You will have a hard time picking up on the valuables in the feedback.
This is of course a defense against what most of us experience as the fear of being rejected. But keep in mind that the person giving you the feedback has this fear as well.
Giving feedback is not that easy
Giving feedback is one of the hard things to do, even (or maybe especially) when it is invited. When there is hierarchy involved, it is potentially career menacing. In general, people who don’t do feedback for a living find it hard to be completely open and honest in their feedback. Yet, that is what you need – open and constructive feedback.
Be aware that as much as you need a measure of appreciation, so does the other person. If you want to receive feedback in an appreciative manner, you should give appreciation. Talk the issue of openness over with the person you invite to give you feedback.
Feedback that works is based on constructive criticism
While appreciation is needed, you are looking for what you need to improve. This does not mean you are inviting a negative critique, however. You aim for constructive criticism. Constructive means the criticism should contribute to enabling you to improve on the issues you have asked feedback on. For the criticism to have value it must be reality based and to the point.
‘Constructive’ literally means that it holds together. Constructive feedback also has to hold both participants together. Hence the feedback process has to be of value to you both.
Both of these preconditions of constructive feedback mean that preparation before you have the feedback conversation is an absolute necessity. You need to prepare the ground for construction. You also need to define what makes it of value to you both.
Getting the feedback you need: The preparation
To design the process of constructive feedback, you first have to arrange your own thoughts. In order to do so, answering the following questions in keywords will be helpful.
- What is the goal?
- On what do I want/need feedback?
Next think about the process of feedback.
- When is it appreciative and constructive for you?
- What values or principals should be included for the process to be of value to you both?
The goal is to find something that gives both of you direction through the process. Goal and objective give direction to the feedback itself. Shared values create trust and as soon as they are experienced, the process becomes reliable. The effect will be the space to give constructive feedback and to listen to it with peace of mind.
Getting the feedback you need: The process
Invite someone specifically for the process of giving you constructive feedback. Explain what you want and why you ask this particular person for his or her feedback.
Be aware that the request can be awkward for the other person. Be clear about what you need the feedback for, and how you see the process (as discussed above).
The process is constructive when it is reliable for both on all issues that are personally important. This could be for instance trust, safety, certain emotions both would like to avoid, or the timing and duration one needs.
Getting the feedback you need: what it brings you
Talent does not come ready made. It needs to be worked at. To get to the little details that count, the extra nuance that you cannot see yourself, getting constructive feedback is invaluable.
Be sure to prepare and execute the process well. It will help you reach new goals and make it possible for you to become really good at what you do.
The Good Career & Life, coaching for professionals:
Giving constructive feedback is what we do for a living. If you are interested in using our ability to function as your ‘outside eyes and ears’, please contact us for an introductory exploration. Giving and receiving feedback is one of the soft skills we coach managers and professionals in.