“Can I give you some feedback?” The phrase itself is enough to strike dread – no wonder annual reviews are almost universally loathed. It doesn’t have to be this way. Feedback is one of the most effective yet undervalued ways to get ahead – so long as you know how to take it.
- Get over the fear. Feedback builds self-awareness, provides a sense of direction and motivates us to improve. But despite the benefits, it can feel awkward or even threatening, so we tend to avoid it. Remind yourself of the benefits of feedback and push yourself to seek it out.
- Go to a variety of sources. Responsibility for giving feedback doesn’t lie solely with a manager. Be proactive in asking for feedback from a variety of superiors, subordinates and peers to build the most comprehensive, unbiased picture of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Make it easy for them. Giving effective feedback is a skill that not everybody has mastered. Explain upfront which specific areas you’d like feedback on and how much detail you prefer, and start the conversation by offering your own reflections. Check you’ve understood their comments to avoid ambiguity.
- Stay engaged. To get the full value from feedback, we can’t be distracted by our emotions. That’s easier said than done: the perceived accuracy of the feedback, our relationship with the other person and threats to our identity can all trigger an emotional response. Being aware of what our triggers are puts us in a better position to manage them and remain objective.
- Reflect and make a plan. Simply having the conversation isn’t enough. Take the time to evaluate the extent to which you understand, agree with and, crucially, want to change due to the feedback. Then detail specifically what you are going to do differently as a result, including concrete actions and a deadline.