Does your manager request feedback for you on a regular basis, or as an input into your annual performance review? Do you request feedback for yourself from your team? Once you have feedback, hopefully you received a mix of positive and critical, but constructive, comments that will help you learn and grow. Feedback is a great input for your professional development plan.
One of the easiest ways for your manager to request feedback for you is to send an email with short, anonymous survey to your team. Just asking what you are doing well, and what you could improve, will yield plenty of timely, actionable feedback. A good time to ask for feedback is at the end of a big project, or prior to your annual performance review.
Once your manager has survey results, he will either summarize the feedback into some themes and examples and share it with you; or as I do for my own associates, share exactly what was written by your teammates.
One thing to keep in mind as you review your feedback, is that anytime we review feedback from a survey, and 15 different people share their opinions, it represents 15 different data points and thought processes; but those are 15 people that took time out of their day to share something they felt was important for you to know. Remember that they didn’t get together to discuss your work prior to completing the survey, so you may have very disparate pieces of feedback, or you could begin to see themes or similarities in what was shared. You’ll have to reflect on what you read, and have conversations with your manager, and peers and mentors you trust and respect, to gather insights and understand what was meant.
Positive feedback on your work is great! Keep doing what is working well. When you get feedback that is positive, its good to know that you are contributing to the team, and your team members value what you bring the project. Positive feedback is reinforcement for a job well done, and you should definitely keep it up! Think of ways to use what you’ve learned and repeat your successes on your next project.
Receiving critical feedback
Receiving critical, but constructive, feedback from your manager or your peers is how we improve! If all we received were glowingly positive feedback, it would be hard to learn and grow.
Yes, sometimes it can be scary to receive critical feedback, and it can sting a little to hear. I genuinely believe that on my team, the critical feedback shared, is meant to help associates improve, rather than to put them down or settle grudges. I really think that team members that provide feedback truly care about each other, and that’s why they take the time out of their day to answer a survey about your work performance. Productive feedback ultimately helps us improve by letting us know where to focus. In a Scrum team, this is just like having a Sprint Retrospective for yourself—you get a chance to find out what’s working and what isn’t.
How to handle hearing critical feedback is something you learn over time and comes with professional maturity. I’ve learned that the more experienced a team member is, and the more effective they are, constructive feedback is more useful that glowing positives. Freakonomics had a great podcast on this recently.
Feedback with which you disagree
As a manager, when I share feedback with an associate, the first thing I ask is if there was any feedback that surprised them, or something with which they didn’t agree. This is a really good starting point for a development or coaching conversation, and gives us a chance to dive into something that could prove to be a valuable personal insight. I also ask why the associate thinks someone might have perceived an event that caused them to share the feedback. I encourage them to reflect on the feedback and possible events that may have impacted other team members. Perception isn’t always reality, so the first thing to do is to try to understand from another’s point of view.
Sometimes critical feedback stings. It does, I won’t lie. It stings when I receive it too. Sometimes it takes a moment to digest. It’s important to remember that people care about you, and that they are sharing this information to help you improve. When I have this discussion with associates, they usually have one of two reactions—either sharing how useful this feedback is, and how they seek to understand and perform better; or how they think it is totally and entirely incorrect, or try to deflect it. I think the appropriate response, no matter what, is to be thankful for the information, and reflect on what it was. As a manager, I’m always impressed with the maturity of the associates on my team, and how open they are to honest, critical, but constructive, feedback.
If you still can’t wrap your head around the critical feedback you received, or there really wasn’t enough information to understand what was being shared, I’ve suggested a technique that has worked well for me in the past. Find someone on your team that you trust and respect, pull them aside and share the feedback you received. Ask if they can provide any further insight, or help you understand why someone might have brought it up your feedback survey. This is a great way to start a conversation about how to improve, and you could build a lasting mentor relationship.
Get feedback early and often, so its timely and actionable
You don’t have to wait for a manager initiate the feedback conversation, you can ask about feedback in your regular-one-on-one meetings. I’m always amazed in interviews, when I ask a candidate to “tell me about a time when you received some constructive criticism about your work performance,” and they tell me that they have never received feedback like that. Either managers are not taking the time to help their team members learn and grow, or the feedback is shared so indirectly or lightly, that it just isn’t heard. This is too bad, we should have the managerial courage to have honest conversations with our associates and our peers, if we think it would help them improve.
You also don’t have to wait for a manager to send out a survey; or for them to meet with your teammates or peers to get data points for a feedback conversation. You can send a quick email requesting feedback for yourself, or a short survey that keep responses anonymous, after a big project, or an important phase. Tell your team that you value their opinions and you want to get better; I am sure they care about you and want to help. A feedback request can be very simple, and the easier you make it for your team members, the more likely you are to get responses. Just ask what you did well on your last project, and where you could have done something differently, or how you could improve.
Hopefully, you are receiving timely, actionable feedback from your manager. Take the time to reflect on everything that was shared, understand that perception is reality for the person sharing their opinion, and use what you learn for your professional development. Be thankful for any constructive feedback you receive, because you could not be receiving any feedback at all.