5 Tips for Getting Good Feedback
Make the most of constructive criticism.
Even if you’re an office MVP, you can’t expect positive reinforcement all day, every day. Learn how to effectively ask for, respond to and get the most out of constructive criticism.
The Skill Set: How to Get Good Feedback
1. Get into the right frame of mind
“We know we’re not perfect, but when faced with constructive criticism, our natural reaction is to feel defensive,” says Jim Kochalka, a celebrated executive coach. “Getting defensive reduces your ability to benefit from criticism.” He suggests cultivating the mindset that all feedback is a valuable gift. “Look at asking for and receiving feedback as something you’re doing to improve yourself,” he says.
2. Know when to ask
“When you’re learning a new task, ask for feedback more frequently to ensure you’ve mastered it,” says Jim. Then, once you and your manager recognize you’re performing the task well, lay off. “If you’re doing something competently, asking your boss to evaluate your work would seem gratuitous.” When in doubt, Jim suggests asking yourself if the assessment you’re about to request will actually help shape your behavior—will it change the way you do something? Will it help you improve? If not, don't bother.
3. Ask specific questions
Don’t use general questions like, “How am I doing?” or yes-or-no questions like, “Did I do a good job?” Jim suggests thinking about an area in which you’d like to improve and asking specific questions about your performance. For example, “Could you tell me how I’ve been doing in terms of timeliness with my projects?” or saying, “Tell me the ways in which I’m doing well with my weekly updates, and the ways I could do better.”
4. Respond with a call to action
“Repeat your manager’s comments back to them to ensure you’ve understood the feedback and show that you’re receptive to it,” says Jim. For example, if your boss comments that you talked too quickly when you gave a presentation, thank them for their comments and say, “Okay, I’ll work on slowing down when I speak publicly.” Providing a call to action—that you’ll work on speaking more slowly during presentations—suggests both that you understood the feedback and that you will do something about it.
5. Use feedback to improve your work
After your boss gives you constructive criticism, Jim suggests saying,”I’d like to check in with you next month to see how I’ve improved.” In the meantime, make a commitment to yourself that you’ll improve by monitoring your own progress. Jim recommends breaking the task into its component parts and finding ways to measure yourself in those areas on a daily basis. For example, if you’re working on your public speaking ability, find a way to rank each piece of that (preparation, speed and tone of voice, eye contact, etc.) on a one-to-10 scale. Check yourself regularly before going to your boss for their thoughts on how you’ve improved. Finally, Jim suggests asking yourself what value the feedback adds to your work. “You’re more likely to take the necessary steps to improve if you see the way it fits into the big picture,” he says, so focus on what you have to gain from acting on constructive criticism.
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