In my mind, nothing opens up possibilities for personal and professional growth more than receiving honest observations from a colleague, friend, or family member. However, I realize this sentiment is not widely shared.
Ken Blanchard likes to say “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” But if this is true, why is this meal avoided by some as though it consists of rotting fish and raw eggs?
Most of us have a similar reaction when we hear the words “I have some feedback for you”—a feeling of dread in the pit of the stomach; a fine sheen of sweat that forms at the brow. Feedback may be breakfast, but nausea often follows.
I am now a self-professed feedback junkie, but trust me—I have not always loved feedback. I can still remember the first bit of really tough feedback I received in my professional career. I fought it with a vengeance, sought excuses to explain it away, and railed against the person who delivered it.
I didn’t change—and I didn’t care—until several weeks later. That’s when, during a meeting, I heard the exact type of comment come out of my mouth that I had been given feedback about.
It was a watershed moment for me. I committed to voraciously seeking feedback from others and to treating pieces of feedback as compass points for professional and personal expansion. Over time, I learned to love it.
How about you? What’s your response to feedback? Here’s what I learned:
Be proactive in asking for it. This is the most critical step to harnessing the power of feedback: take the initiative to seek it out frequently from people you interact with. Be transparent about your desire to learn and improve—and express your gratitude to them for helping you grow. By doing so, you make it safe for others to share observations—and for them to perhaps feel brave enough to ask the same favor of you!
Choose the right questions. When requesting feedback, avoid questions that are broad or vague. Consider the areas where you would like to grow and craft thoughtful questions that will garner an equally thoughtful response. Some of my favorite questions are:
- How can I be a better partner to you?
- How do you feel about my communication style? Am I giving you everything you need?
- Is there anything you’d like me to understand about how your job works?
- One goal I am working on right now is (insert goal here). Would you be open to providing me with ongoing feedback about my progress toward this goal?
Take time for reflection. Sometimes, even when we ask for it, feedback can be tough to digest. That’s okay. Give yourself time and grace to process these types of responses and unpack your feelings. Compare your own beliefs to the feedback and talk to a trusted friend or family member about it. Remember: we all have blind spots about ourselves and there is power in discovering them so that we are blind no more. Knowledge is power—and information on how others perceive you is invaluable.
Incorporate the feedback into your goals. Once you have processed the feedback, brainstorm concrete behaviors or actions you can adopt that will allow you to address the areas at hand. Perhaps you can take a class, begin steps to break a bad habit, or incorporate a new practice into your workday. Share your intentions with your manager or a trusted colleague and ask for their help in accountability tracking your progress.
Feedback doesn’t have to be something to be avoided. On the contrary; it can be a great gift from one person to another. Take control of feedback: actively pursue it and make it work for you!