Despite the credence of 360 reviews and the value generally ascribed to leaders who ask for, accept, and/or incorporate feedback, many of us unconsciously avoid or consciously steer clear from soliciting new perspectives. Sure, hearing how others experience you can feel uncomfortable—but it also provides invaluable opportunities to learn and grow.
How to Ask For Feedback
If you’re afraid of asking for feedback, consider the absolute worst-case scenario: you’re doing something that’s destructive to you and/or others—and you don’t know it! Getting feedback doesn’t change reality, it just expands your knowledge of it, giving you the power to change.
Explain your goal
To help others provide actionable feedback, it can be helpful to explain what you’re looking for. Explaining your leadership development goals or areas of uncertainty may put others at ease as well as direct their comments to the areas you find most useful.
Consider the timing
While it may be more helpful and satisfying to receive feedback in the moment, make sure you ask for it at a time that works for the other party. Set up your sources with enough time to be thoughtful and thorough. Provide a few days for colleagues to gather thoughts about a specific event or project, and budget a few weeks or more for more routine performance or leadership assessments. If you are savvy enough to survey your customers, make sure you give them a month or so to fit you in.
Transparent feedback offers the advantage of context as well as the opportunity to seek and offer clarification. While I’m a proponent for this approach in certain situations, it’s not always ideal. Since anonymity provides safety for stakeholders to speak their truth without consequence, it can yield more direct constructive feedback that, while occasionally stinging, tells you what you really need to know.
How to Receive Feedback
Consider it an opportunity to grow
While it feels good to get positive feedback, resist the urge to greet yours as only a feel-good exercise. Instead, look for affirmations of your existing behavior and ideas for modifications.
Listen to understand
If you are fortunate enough to have someone give you direct feedback in a conversation, use the richness of the medium to your advantage. Resist the urge to respond immediately. Instead, give your full attention, seek clarification, and encourage sharing. If you believe offering your perspective would be helpful to the other party, consider doing so. (Hint: being defensive doesn’t help.)
Take responsibility for your actions
Since we judge ourselves by our intentions and others judge us by our actions, feedback can sometimes feel inaccurate. Keep in mind that, while you might not agree with everything you hear, it reflects someone else’s experience of you—it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.
Make sure to show appreciation for the time and effort you responders dedicated to the process. Express your commitment to doing something with what you learned. And encourage the feedback to keep flowing.
How to thrive: Consider whose feedback could be valuable to your current performance or professional development. Create a plan for soliciting and incorporating their thoughts.