Let’s face it. Asking for feedback can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright scary. But like it or not, feedback is an incredibly important part of your professional development. Unfortunately, women are far less likely than men to receive feedback from their managers, especially if it’s negative. As a result, women are missing out on crucial insight into how they can improve on their areas of weakness. While there is no guarantee that your manager will be equipped to give you the kind of constructive feedback that leads to professional growth, you can take steps to increase the likelihood that you will receive the critique you need to expand your skill set.
Don’t Wait for Your Annual Review. While it’s tempting to wait for your formal review to ask for feedback, waiting until the end of the year could give you little to no time to make the necessary adjustments and improvements necessary to get the promotion, pay raise, or bonus you’ve been after. Regular feedback is key to your progress. Ask for your manager’s thoughts after any significant projects or meetings, or at the very least on a quarterly basis, so that by the time you receive your end of the year review, you can show how you’ve incorporated the advice you’ve received and used it to improve your performance.
Ask for Specifics. When asking for feedback, it’s important to ask for specifics. Too often, we let our managers get away with generalities that can leave us pretty lost. To make sure you’re getting specific answers, ask specific questions. Open ended questions like, “How am I doing?” can often result in vague responses. Instead, ask about a specific project or situation. If your manager says that your writing could use some work, ask him or her what specifically needs improvement- are you making a lot of typographical errors? Are your ideas not being communicated clearly? Are your e-mails too wordy? The more granular you get, the more you know where to focus your efforts. It’s also helpful to ask for specific action steps you can take to improve. Write them down and refer to them often. Likewise, if you receive positive feedback such as, “You’re doing great!” be sure to ask your manager to name the specific aspects of your performance with which he or she is pleased so that you can continue to build on those skills.
Ask Someone Other Than Your Manager. Though your manager or direct supervisor’s opinion might be the most important when it comes to advancing in your organization, you can also gain valuable insight from your colleagues. Most likely, you’re spending more time with your team members than with your manager, so they are often in a better position to give you constructive feedback. For example, if you’re leading a project, take a moment at the conclusion of the project to ask your team what they thought you did well and not so well. It will not only give you a better sense of how you performed, but will also signal to your colleagues that you value their opinions. This is a critical component of good leadership. It can also be helpful to do a quick check in from time to time with a trusted colleague to get a better understanding of where you excel and what could use some work.
Stay tuned for a follow up post on how to receive feedback, which is equally important. Happy Thursday!