So, you and your boss have been tiptoeing around each other all year.
Sometimes you get the occasional pat on the back, and other times you get a little finger waddle that you’re going in the wrong direction. But for the most part, you have no idea what your boss thinks about your work or accomplishments. You’re not even sure if he knows what you bring to the table.
You want, and need, clear and thorough feedback so that you can do your job even better. But you’re also not sure how to ask for feedback, without seeming bothersome or needy.
And quite frankly, just the thought of asking for feedback is intimidating and anxiety-inducing. But here are 3 ways to initiate the conversation and get the most of it.
Send an Email to Schedule an Appointment
The easiest way to avoid feeling bothersome is to send an email beforehand, instead of just walking in and catching your manager off guard. Scheduling an appointment helps prepare your manager for the conversation, making it more likely that you’re receive thoughtful and clear feedback since they would’ve had some time to think about it before the meeting.
A quick email like this, works well:
“Would it be possible for us to chat sometime this week? I’d love to get your feedback on my recent projects [or something else specific]. I’m sure you’re quite busy, so just let me know what day works best for a 10-minute conversation.”
Your boss might even respond that their free to speak right now, which would be great. But this approach saves you from barging in at an inconvenient time.
Ask Specific Questions
Avoid the typical, “So, how am I doing?” This question serves no purpose and prompts fluffy, zero-substance responses. Your goal is to receive clear and actionable feedback so it’s your duty to ask clear and specific questions.
Keep in mind, to ask questions that focus on the future, rather than saying “What did I do wrong?” Focusing on the future makes it easier for your boss to be more candid and open with you, oppose to having to tell you all the things you could’ve did to make something better in the past – which could be uncomfortable for both you and your boss.
Here are a few questions you should consider:
- From your perspective, what steps can I take to exceed expectations on [something you’re working on]?
- What can I do going forward to improve?
- Moving forward, how can I do better in/on/with [mention a particular situation]?
- Specifically, what initiatives do you recommend I take to be ready for [upcoming project, position, promotion, assignment or whatever you’re most interested in doing next]?
- I’m excited about the progress I’ve been able to make on [specific project], and I’m always looking to get better. Could you share one thing I could do differently on the next project to produce even better results?
- Can I get your advice on [a project, skill or something else specific]?
As a leader, it is your manager’s responsibility to give you his time and to help you grow and develop. Although, some managers do a better job at this than others, it’s important to know that asking for advice or feedback (at the right time) isn’t needy, it’s a necessity. It’s also the quickest way to accelerate your career.
But, to combat your fear of seeming needy, offer value. Mention the progress you’re making on a key assignment or project. Let your boss know that you’re right on track to meet your deadline, or that you’re free on Thursday to lend a helping hand on his time-consuming project. Find a way to be resourceful, so that you can walk away feeling like you brought something to the table too.
Equally important to asking for feedback is receiving it. The quickest way to shut down the flow of feedback is to take it the wrong way. Here are a few do’s and don’ts when receiving feedback.
As much as you’d like to point out that you didn’t have enough time to thoroughly work on your presentation and that’s why it was full of typos, don’t interrupt. Give your manager your full attention and actively listen. If you cut your manager off, or interrupt to justify your mistake, you could hinder your boss from sharing additional feedback that could be useful to you.
Don’t Take It Personal (Or Get Defensive)
While getting feedback, you may receive not so flattering comments. You may even hear something that’s flat out rude, or untrue. But don’t take it personal and most importantly, don’t get defensive. Don’t make a fuss and start an argument because you don’t agree with what was said. Just listen and take what you need, leave what you don’t. The truth is, even if you don’t agree with what’s said, that’s how you’re currently being perceived. And, it’s your duty to bridge the gap between who you are and how you’re perceived by others.
Do Take Notes
Bring a pen and notepad with you into the meeting. This shows that you’re listening and that you value the person’s opinion. It indicates to them that they’re not wasting their time meeting with you. Jotting down the person’s response also gives them time to think about more constructive feedback while you’re taking notes.
Do Express Solutions if You Receive Negative Feedback
If you receive negative feedback, thank your boss for being so candid and honest and clearly express that you’re going to work on it. You can say something simple like: “Thank you for being so open. I appreciate you sharing that with me. Next time I will be sure to [restate the thing they mentioned you can improve].”
Do Follow-up 2-4 weeks later
To truly show that you value your manager’s feedback, follow-up once you’ve made the suggested improvements. This shows that you can handle tough feedback and that you’re committed to your professional development. It also opens the door for your boss to give you even more frequent feedback in the future.
You can send off an email like this to seal the deal: “Thanks so much for the advice you gave me a few weeks ago to [mention specific advice]. I implemented your suggestions and have already seen great results. I even received a compliment from [a client/co-worker/key person]. Thanks again for all your help!”
Asking for feedback and sitting still to receive feedback can be tricky, but by following these steps, and making an effort to request feedback more frequently, you’ll be well on your way towards developing in your career and feeling less bothersome and needy.