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You Don’t Know if You Don’t Ask

5 Steps for Seeking Feedback

In last week’s blog, we shared some tips on preparing for and sharing feedback, ultimately helping us treat feedback more like a gift. As we continue to seek a more open dialog of feedback in the new year, I encourage each of us, in our relentless pursuit of even better, to ask others for their feedback, perspectives, insights, or other wisdom they could share to help you be an even better human, friend, spouse, employee, or colleague.

If we don’t ask, we’ll never know. Sometimes it’s asking for direct feedback, and sometimes it’s asking for someone else’s perspective on a given topic, idea, or notion. Either way, when you’re about to ask someone for their feedback, I would advise a little bit of preparation work, and maybe a follow-up plan. This comes in five steps for seeking feedback.

 

1. Why do you want to know?

question-metal-word-why-letterpressWhy would you bother to ask someone for their feedback? Why are you inquiring? Are you doing this just as an obligatory nod because you feel like you should? Or are you genuinely looking to improve something? Have you heard something or encountered something that made you realize that you do have room to grow in a particular space?

I think when we understand why we want to know someone else’s perspective or feedback; it helps us understand what we’re going to do with it. Knowing why we want to know helps us prepare ourselves in case they are critical or in case their opinion is different from ours. It also helps us ground ourselves in what we are going to do with the information. So, why do you want to know?

 

2. Ask well.

enthusiastic-young-woman-with-raised-hand (1)When you’re asking someone for feedback or perspective, really take time to consider the question that you’re asking and ask it well. Position it in a way that enables the other person to respond and share their input. Don’t ask leading questions with guided answers. Don’t ask, “Hey you really loved that last thing I did, didn’t you?” Ask open ended questions. Ask balanced questions like, “What went well? What didn’t go well?” If you’re conducting a survey or asking a group of people for their thoughts, give a variety of choices as well as some open-ended options where people can write in an ‘other’ response. Take some time to really ask the question well.

If you’ve already thought in advance what you’re going to do with this input, then limit your questions to only those questions that relate to what you’re willing to take action on. If you know that there is something that is not going to change no matter what, then asking someone else for their feedback is sort of limiting and closed minded. So, either broaden your approach back in step one (when you ask yourself what you want to do with the feedback), or simply don’t ask the question here in step two. Leave out the excessive questions and only ask for feedback where you’re willing to take action.

 

3. Consider the answers.

students-hand-holding-pencil-writing-selected-choice-answer-sheetsVery often we consume data quickly. Today, we glance at information and then move on to the next thing. We barely spend any time digesting, processing, or internalizing the information. On the flip side, sometimes we get information and we’re so quick to react to it that we don’t take time to think about it and really reflect. So, it’s possible that someone’s giving you information that seems counter to what you thought was their perspective. Maybe someone is giving you feedback that could really be hurtful if you allowed it to be hurtful but could ultimately be a growth opportunity if you allowed yourself to see the development potential in the answer.

The invitation here is to consider it. Think about the information you have been given. Reflect on the perspective. Truly digest the feedback. Like a sip of fine wine, mull over it and roll it around. Breathe it in and consider it from different angles. Spend some time really thinking about and considering the perspective. Don’t just look for the two or three things that validate your assumptions, and don’t just react to the things that are counter to the things that you hoped. Instead, really give it some thought.

 

4. Take action.

hand-holding-clapper-board-front-girl-reading-scripts-studioIf you really want someone’s feedback, and you genuinely want to use it, then you must plan to use it. If your ‘Why’ was clear back in step one, you framed the questions appropriately in step two, and then you had a chance to really consider the feedback back in step three, by now you should be pretty well positioned to actually do something about it. Don’t ignore it, don’t shove it in a drawer somewhere and forget about it, but really take action.

I am not advocating that you change your character or change your entire life around because someone gave you feedback. I am however, advocating that if you’ve asked someone to tell you what you could do better, or if you’ve asked your customers for what you do well and what they wished you’d do differently, then take some action on that. Put a plan in place to put action in motion to demonstrate that you’ve heard the person who took the time to share their feedback. Demonstrate responsiveness. Make a plan that shows how you’ll adopt a new process or a new way of looking at things or even a new turn of phrase if that’s what someone was taking issue with. This step is where you take some specific action in response to the feedback given.

 

5. Say thank you.

thank-you-note-with-cup-coffee-1We are so busy and often overwhelmed with requests for information that when someone else has taken the time out of their busy lives to stop thinking about themselves and give that gift of time, consideration, perspective, and feedback, it is something to be treasured. We must cherish it. Maybe their words were not the words you were hoping for, and you feel dismayed or frustrated. The fact that they gave you their time, energy, and thoughtful consideration of your request is worth a “thank you”.

And, when you stop to think about how a “thank you” is expressed and turn to the resources available to us, we know that gratitude is expressed best when we speak it in the language of appreciation that the other person speaks. As we say thank you, at a bare minimum use specific words to express your gratitude; if it makes sense to do so, then also spend time with this person to tell them how they’ve helped you or return the favor somehow or even give them a token of appreciation. Truly say “thank you” and express your appreciation.

 

A few more thoughts.

Recently on Facebook I saw a meme that said something like, “Only ask advice from someone that already has what you want,” and another that said, “Seek input from people who have been where you are and have come out successfully,”. I guess that’s one way of looking at advice, but I’m not sure I share it entirely. I believe, in the long run, we’re smarter and more effective when we collaborate. I believe each person has something to offer in their perspective or their journey. It’s true that not everyone can offer insights on every topic, but the idea of applying learning to multiple perspectives to help hone our own is powerful. Either way, when you’re soliciting feedback, make sure you’ve given some thought to who you are asking and why you want their input.

diverse-excited-best-friends-giving-high-five-together-cafe-meetingRecently, here at Your Clear Next Step, we solicited feedback from our subscribers. We put out several posts on social media and on our website, and mentioned it in our newsletter asking for feedback on some of the classes that we’ve taught over the last year. We chose to ask those who are likely to participate in our classes. We chose to ask those who have participated in our classes before. We chose to ask those who read our newsletters and visit our website. We chose to ask those who have chosen to follow us on social media.

As we chose to ask for your feedback, we also had a plan in place for how we would consider your feedback and what we would do with it. I am thrilled to say that we have made some adjustments to our 2020 training plan based on your feedback. So, a special thank you to those who took the time to share their input in our surveys. You will see somethings in our lineup for 2020 that are a direct result of your feedback.

As you go about your daily lives and your relentless pursuit of even better we invite you to continue the opportunity of improvement by asking for feedback, taking action, and saying thank you. How about you? What do you do when you’re soliciting feedback?

Sinikka headshot 2017

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day.


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