Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


May 8, 2019

It’s how you ask and how you listen
When a boss or colleague offers ‘helpful feedback’ or ‘constructive criticism,’ it can make your throat close. With some bad experiences in our past, we sometimes go right into defense mode or shut down.  But proactively seeking meaningful feedback from people you respect and who know your work is one of the most effective ways to speed progress and send a clear message that you are committed to growing.
“Feedback is like a compass to guide you on your career journey,” says author and career coach Katrina McGhee. “Too often we allow feedback to feel intimidating but it is simply data. It should feel much scarier to blindly move forward without input on whether we are moving in the right direction. Constructive, specific feedback helps us course-correct, improve and grow if we’re ready to hear it.”
The key is how you ask and how you listen.

  1. Ask people you really want to hear from. You are likely to have at least an annual performance evaluation with your boss and that should be a great opportunity for feedback. But there may be other people whose perspective you really value or from whom you would find it more palatable to receive a candid critique. You are not limited to getting feedback from one source.
  1. Open yourself to honesty. Maybe you need to meditate, re-read past emails of praise or indulge in an amazing chocolate muffin first, but prepare yourself to receive feedback openly. And let the person know that candor will be more helpful to you than praise.
  1. Dig deeper. Without being defensive, probe to get a better understanding of the feedback or ask for specific examples. Can she clarify how your presentation skills could be improved, or remember specific times when you could have stepped up more?
  1. Really listen. Whether you agree or disagree, avoid interrupting to explain or justify. If you let the person finish their thoughts, you are likely to get far more helpful information than if you immediately mount a defense.
  1. Write it down. Take specific notes during the meeting to communicate that you take the person’s time and input seriously and so you can revisit it later.
Feedback represents the viewpoint of the giver and isn’t always 100% accurate. But it does provide a window into how others perceive you and that alone is valuable. Regularly seeking feedback from those you respect is like having a great flashlight on a dark path — you get a much clearer idea of where you need to go.

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