The prospect of getting feedback on your performance can be intimidating. It’s not pleasant to hear about our own flaws and weaknesses. Many people would rather stick their head in the sand than face the truth. However, feedback is an important tool to help us grow and improve. After all, how can you get any better if you don’t know what areas you need to improve in?
Unfortunately, not every person you receive feedback from is going to be an expert at giving feedback. Sometimes, they may be less than tactful or simply offer a critique without any ideas on how to correct the problem. Giving feedback can be just as tricky as getting feedback.
Regardless of the skill of the person giving you the feedback, it’s up to you to take their words and turn them into growth for yourself. Even the best in the world at giving feedback can only do so much if the person listening doesn’t want to take the necessary actions.
Here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of the feedback you receive.
Listen Without Judgment
When you’re in a feedback session, it’s important to have an open mind. Often, we can be blind to our own weak spots until they’re pointed out to us. There might also be circumstances we aren’t aware of that come up during a formal review that have been impacting our work. (For example, your manager is under pressure from the top and has been demanding more from you and your team.)
Instead of coming into a meeting with your shield up, try seeing it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Listen and gather information from the person giving you feedback without making a judgment or immediately dismissing it. If you are too defensive to listen, you won't hear the important information the person is trying to convey to you, even if it's for your benefit.
During the meeting, take notes to help you remember what was said. It will make it easier to go back over your thoughts without the immediate emotional reaction attached to it. Once you have all of the information, you can start making decisions about what to take action on.
Assume Good Intentions
As I said at the beginning of the article, not everyone giving you feedback is going to be skilled at giving it. Sometimes, you’ll hear just what you need to help you get through a tough spot, but other times you’ll hear harsh criticism that feels like a slap in the face.
To help you handle feedback, regardless of the skill of the person giving it, assume positive intention. As difficult as it is to hear feedback, it’s also hard to give it. Chances are, the person giving you feedback has good intentions, even if their words don’t quite come across that way.
It's not easy to tell someone they need to improve or point out areas of weakness. The person giving feedback is likely nervous about how the person receiving feedback will react. These nerves, combined with a lack of practice and knowledge about giving good feedback, can make their words come out not quite like they imagined.
Think of all the times you've had a difficult conversation. You probably replayed it in your head afterwards, thinking of what you might have said differently or how it might have gone better if you had just said this instead. So give your manager (or whoever is giving you feedback) a little grace and assume they have your best interests at heart.
Yes, there may occasionally be someone who is being critical just for the sake of being critical, but the vast majority of your managers are trying to help you improve. Your personal performance impacts the whole team, so your manager wants you to be at your best.
Ask Questions & Get Clarity
Feedback should be a two-way street. When you’re getting feedback about your performance, more than likely, you’ll have questions. Sometimes it can be clarifying vague feedback or asking for suggestions on how you can improve in an area where you’re struggling.
It’s especially important to ask questions and get clarity when an issue arises that you weren’t aware of. We all have our blind spots, so when these things come up, be sure to ask enough questions to understand exactly what the issue is and how you can start fixing it.
Set Clear Goals & Check In Often
Once you’ve listened to feedback (and hopefully some FeedForward too!) and had time to consider it, you can start to take action.
Set yourself goals based on the feedback. For example, if your boss says you need to increase your sales, set a goal to increase by a certain amount by the end of the month. Personalize your goals to fit your needs. Don’t try to suddenly go from the lowest performing salesperson to the top in one month or you’ll only end up frustrating yourself.
Some industries make it easier to set tangible goals than others. If your feedback is less difficult to quantify, you may have to get creative with your goals. As long as you find some way to track your progress and see improvement, you’re on the right track.
After you’ve gotten feedback, it’s also important to set a time to check back in with your supervisor to update them on your progress. This will help keep you accountable for making the necessary changes and give an opportunity for any course correction if you get on the wrong path.
Try Small Changes
Now that you’ve set your goals, start by taking small steps toward reaching them. Suddenly making huge changes to your work will more than likely backfire. Small steps are a more manageable way to make good habits stick without getting overwhelmed or frustrated.
It’s also a good idea to try small changes to see how they work out for you. This will save you a lot of time and energy. For example, if you want to try a new time management system to help you juggle tasks better, don’t go out and spend lots of money on books, fancy subscriptions, etc. Test it out in a basic form for a few days before making a major commitment.
Also, ask your peers for ideas on how they handle problems. You’re probably not the only one to struggle with something, so asking for advice from your coworkers can help the whole team grow and overcome issues.
As scary as it can be to get feedback, it’s really a tool to help you grow. The tips I discussed will make the process go more smoothly and you’ll get more out of it. And don't forget - giving feedback can be just as hard as receiving it, so remember to say thank you! The person giving you feedback has given you the opportunity to improve yourself.