To Get Better Ask for Feedback!
A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times reminded me how important it is to ask for feedback. In the article printed February 11, 2018 Soren Kaplan told the story of “How One Manager Turned Around His Career from Worst to First.” The manager “asked for blunt feedback about his blind spots.” He used one of my favorite questions: What should I start doing, stop doing and continue doing?
I was reminded of a co-worker, let’s call him Ben, who routinely asked his team, his peers, and his boss to give him feedback. Once a year he would give us each a stamped, pre-addressed envelope marked confidential, and a paper with two questions. (Yes, this was in the days of snail mail, paper, and pen, but the action is still relevant.)
He would ask us:
- So that I can become a better leader what should I start doing, stop doing or continue doing?
- So that I might better support your success what should I do more of, less of, or differently?
A few weeks after his request my co-worker would hold a short meeting. He would share what he had learned, what he planned to start, stop, continue, or do more of, less of or differently. He also told us what he heard that he was not prepared or willing to address.
He showed us that it was not enough to ask, he had to listen and consider without defending his current actions. He had to do something with what he learned. In the end he still got to decide who he was and how he would act. He made those choices, however, informed by those who were impacted by his leadership and partnership.
There were three things that resulted from Ben’s requests of us.
- Ben learned. He changed his own behavior and became one of the most highly respected members of the company’s senior leadership team.
- The workplace became more open and direct. Over time we stopped mailing him our answers and just found time to stop in his office to talk and share our thinking.
- We learned. Many of us started the same or similar process to ask for feedback that would help us be better.
Whether we are trying to turn things around like the manager is Kaplan’s article or to simply be better like my co-worker, Ben – asking for feedback is something we can all do easily. A little effort, an open mind, and a willingness to learn can bring great reward.