How to Ask For and Receive Feedback

The gap between how a leader THINKS they are perceived and the REALITY of how others see them can be big. This gap may be cause for concern, and may require some action on the leader’s part to change the less-than-positive perceptions of others. Alternatively, a leader may underestimate themselves, and getting good feedback is a way to develop self confidence that they are on the right track.

So how do you know if there is a gap, and how do you ask others to name it? Just ask. The best leaders aren’t afraid to do so. They know that asking for feedback indicates self confidence and is not a sign of weakness. They model their own personal and professional development in this way.

How to ask to get feedback you can use

Who will you ask? Ask trusted people around you who observe you in action. These may be employees, customers, peers, or your manager. Ask people you know who will give honest feedback. If you’re serious about this, you won’t ask those who will tell you what they think you want to hear.

When will you ask? If specific feedback around a specific event or behavior is needed, ask as close to the occurrence as possible. For instance, if you want feedback on how you lead a meeting, ask immediately following if possible.

What will you ask? Ask targeted questions about the specific behaviors that you want feedback on. Asking, “How did I do in that meeting?” generally isn’t enough to elicit good, actionable feedback (besides, this is question that can be answered with one word, like “good”).  A “general” question will often get “general” answers.

How will you ask? Open ended questions with some specificity work well. “What did you observe about the clarity of my ideas on our organizational objectives in that strategic planning meeting?” or, “What could I have done differently in explaining our stance on XXX?” are great questions that should elicit specific feedback. If not, keep asking questions so that you understand what the specific behaviors that you can actually change.

Be grateful for the gift you’ve been given

Listen thoroughly to the feedback. Really listen, even if it’s hard (and receiving honest feedback can be hard sometimes).No making excuses for your behavior or blaming someone else or circumstances beyond your control (that would be VERY rude, since you asked for the feedback).

Once you get a complete response from the individual providing the feedback, thank them. That’s it. The person who provided you with the feedback just gave you a gift, and we always say thank you when someone gives us something valuable.

So now that you have the feedback, what do you do with it? Stay tuned for more.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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