Wednesday, December 09, 2020

How to Seek Constructive Feedback: 3 Questions to Ask

Source: Pixabay

We all appreciate praise and recognition.   Constructive criticism?  Not so much.   It's like spinach.  We know it's good for us, but we aren't eager to cook it for supper.   Of course, some managers aren't very effective at delivering feedback either.   Thus, have a particularly thorny problem: leaders who don't provide feedback in a constructive manner, and team members who don't seek it or are not willing to listen. In a recent Fast Company article, leadership expert Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic points out that many of us also falter when we do seek feedback.  Why?  He argues that we don't ask the right questions when soliciting feeback from others.  Here's an excerpt:

Since it’s often unkind to criticize others, especially when you care about them, you need to make it easier for people to do it. This means asking the right questions. Don’t ask people whether they liked what you did or how you do something, and don’t ask questions such as “Was this okay?” or “Did I do a good job?”  Instead, ask

  • “What would you have done differently?”
  • “What are the two things that they didn’t like so much?”
  • “If you can change one thing about X going forward, what would that be?”
Tell them you won’t take it personally, and then don’t take it personally. Tell them you value their opinion and are struggling to find people who help you get better, so if they want to help you, they need to improve your ability to identify blind spots and key areas for improvement.

Then, be thankful. Feedback is always a gift, and there is no bigger gift than constructive critical feedback because it is daunting and risky to provide it. There is a higher cost to honest negative feedback than fake positive feedback, but the former makes you much better than the latter.   

The three questions suggested by Chamorro-Premuzic are right on the mark.  They provide an opportunity for concrete, actionable feedback.   They solicit input that is specific, not generic.   They look forward and focus on what needs to happen differently in the future, rather than only dissecting past conduct.  

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