How to elicit effective feedback

“Could you give me feedback on how I performed on the client management aspect of project?

What went well, what could be improved, and what should i stop doing.”

Asking for feedback is a standard in my professional tool belt. At the end of most projects, I ask my colleagues, managers and clients for feedback. 

Feedback is like the guidance system on a missile. When the missile is moving slowly, its speed sensors send signals to the rockets to increase the thrust and as a consequence it moves faster. If the sensors detect it’s veering to the left, feedback mechanisms adjust its fins so the missile’s course is corrected ever so slightly to the right and it continues along to reach its target.

Similarly, feedback is vital to staying competitive in any industry. It allows you to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This awareness allows you to double down on you strengths making you stronger while working on your weaknesses to bring them up to a higher standard.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can elicit feedback that is useful that will help increase your future performance.

When asking for or giving feedback, follow the steps below to create the most effective process to elicit feedback for yourself.

Be Specific

Always ask for specific feedback. This will help others give you directed and concise comments. General feedback isn’t enough to build an action plan to improve your skills. Asking for general feedback is vague and leaves the evaluator (person providing feedback) clueless as to where to focus their comments. As a result, they’ll make unguided comments that won’t be as helpful. General feedback is a good way to get a sense of your overall strengths and weaknesses. However, once you’ve identified them, focused and specific feedback will allow you to truly progress and increase performance.

Be Timely

Ask for feedback as soon as possible. For example, if you want feedback on a big presentation you gave to the entire company, don’t wait till a month later to solicit feedback. Most people would have forgotten your presentation. Ask for comments while it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. Better yet, ask them to give you feedback before you start your presentation. This way, they’ll be on the lookout for the specific things you asked to be evaluated on.

Be Receptive

At first it might seem difficult to receive feedback. Few people inherently enjoy placing a spotlight on their weaknesses. A simple way  to become more receptive is to think of weaknesses as being temporary and transient that can be turned to strengths by hard work and patience. Also, always remember you are the judge of whether the feedback given truly affects your performance or not. Determine which points are valid and which ones you want to discard. Once that’s complete, move on to the final step.

Prioritization & Execution

Once you’ve determined which points of improvement can help you make the biggest gain in performance, the next step is to prioritize and execute a plan of action to improve. Create S.M.A.R.T goals that will measure progress and execute on them in order of importance. Work on the goals that will give you the biggest performance increase first, and work your way down to the less important ones.

Once you make it a habit of eliciting feedback and acting on it, people will notice and be open to giving you more realistic and hard-hitting comments. Sub-consciously they’ll know you take feedback well and non-reactively, which will make it easier for them to talk to you and tell you what they really think. This will help you grow leaps and bounds and ultimately improve your performance.

Did I miss anything? How do you elicit feedback? Do you act on it?


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