The secrets to getting career-enhancing feedback

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“Great job” is always nice to hear; who doesn’t like praise? But the best feedback is more than just an ego-booster or pick-me-up.

Delivered effectively, feedback can shine a light on core strengths, enable deeper self-awareness, and be the fire that reignites your engine, spurring you on to accomplish personal or professional goals. No surprise then, that 65% of you want more of it.

But there’s a sticking point. Most employees prefer receiving feedback to delivering it, particularly when it’s constructive or negative. So what to do if your line manager shies from giving you the insight you crave? Easy: take charge of soliciting your own feedback.

1. Feedback is everywhere

“Ask people when feedback happens in business and they talk about the annual appraisal. In fact, feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak or listen to another person, in our tone of voice, in the words we use, in the silences we allow, we communicate feedback – how far we trust, respect, love, like or even hate the person in front of us. We cannot not give feedback,” says Bob Dignen, author of Cambridge University Press’ Communicating Across Cultures.

ACTION POINT: Dial up your observation skills. Notice how colleagues respond to you day-to-day, your boss in your 1-2-1, direct reports in team meetings. Now cast the net wider, thinking about disparate teams.  In our webinar Get yourself noticed for the right things, 31% of everywomanNetwork members admitted their capabilities aren’t widely known at work. Are yours?

2. Conduct your own performance review

Leadership experts Zenger and Folkman discovered that nearly three quarters of study participants were unsurprised by negative feedback – they already knew there was a problem.

ACTION POINT: Conduct a detailed and honest SWOT analysis of your professional self, considering both your own and key stakeholders’ viewpoints. If your boss is reluctant to highlight your weakness, own it upfront. “I know I need to improve on ____ and I’d appreciate your help.” “Bosses are usually delighted when an employee takes responsibility for their own learning,” says everywoman Associate, Sara Parsons.

3. Consider why you want feedback

Take an honest assessment of what you’re looking for. Glowing praise? Or genuine guidance around learning and development needs? The majority of people (57%) want the latter, say leadership experts Zenger and Folkman.

ACTION POINT: Take the Zenger Folkman diagnostic tool to investigate the reasons you’re looking to uncover feedback. If you’re less open to honest critique, take time out before progressing with this plan to understand the career benefits of constructive guidance.

4. Build confidence

By roughly a three to one margin, high self-esteem participants in a study preferred constructive criticism because of the opportunity of performance development it afforded.

ACTION POINT: Take stock of your own confidence levels and how they interlink with your performance. Address issues with a confidence-boosting action plan, perhaps with the help of a mentor. Keep a confidence diary of key accomplishments, accolades and personal or professional triumphs.

5. Who do you trust?

Research by academics at Purdue University showed the importance of trusting the person from whom you elicit feedback in order to optimising learning and resulting action. On the flipside, if you do not trust the person giving feedback, you are much more likely to disregard it.

ACTION POINT: Take a view of your trusted network. A line manager past or present might be the most obvious choice, but don’t forget other senior figures in your organisation who know your work, external and internal mentors, coaches, peers, clients and industry and recruitment specialists.

6. Nail the specifics

Less “How am I doing?”, more “What can I do differently next time?” and “What should my priority be for personal development?” The Journal Of Applied Science found that when both feedback and the receiver’s goals were more clearly defined, they were more likely to make an impact on future goals.

ACTION POINT: Think about what specific areas of your performance you want feedback on and tailor open-ended questions towards eliciting useful responses. Share your professional goals with your boss to enable him or her to be even more precise about where you need to improve.

7 Get competitive

A study published in the BPS Digest found that feedback is at its most motivating when it’s relative to another’s success: “Managers trying to encourage employees to work harder, might provide feedback about how a person is doing relative to a slightly better performer. Strategically scheduling breaks when someone is behind should also help focus people on the deficit and subsequently increase effort.”

ACTION POINT: Is there a star performer in your team; a person in the sort of role you want to step up into? Go back to your question set and consider how you can elicit ‘relative feedback’, e.g. “What do I need to do over the next six months to be regarded as highly as X” or “What training would I need to complete in order to have a realistic shot at X’s role?”

8. Digest and formulate a plan

You’ve put in the work to ensure you generate useful feedback from your trusted resource. Now comes the hard work. A study published in Personnel Psychology found: “Managers improved more in years when they discussed the previous year’s feedback than in years when they did not.”

ACTION POINT: Digest your feedback and use it to formulate a concrete development plan. This might involve meeting with the feedback giver at agreed intervals to discuss progress. Our career planning workbook has templates that will help.

9. Give yourself a pat on the back

In taking charge of your own feedback, you are demonstrating a mark of a true leader. Research has found that executives who ask for feedback tend to be the most effective, while those who shy away sit in the lowest 15 th percentile of effectiveness.

Discover more tips in the everywomanNetwork workbook Giving & Recieving Feedback.



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