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Asking for Feedback is Like Asking a Girl Out - You Can Get Lucky!

Posted by Arjun Moorthy

May 11, 2011 6:57:00 PM

One of the best ways to grow as a professional is to get direct feedback, rather than indirect feedback via surveys or infrequent performance reviews.  However, asking for feedback can be awkward.  I mean, it’s not a common phrase in daily conversation to go up to someone and say “Hi, I’d like to get some feedback on my presentation back there.”   

Still, feedback I’ve received over the years, particularly from my colleagues at BCG, has been some of the best career advice.  For example, I learned that my posture in meetings was too relaxed and indicating disinterest, and that I often waited too long to ask a question in a meeting (because I wanted to ask something intelligent) but that made me less engaged until that point from the point of view of others in the room.

Indeed, it’s expected at BCG to give feedback routinely, to subordinates, peers and even seniors (the latter being really awkward and I never did it).  And I now know that every time I ask for feedback I have a chance to scoring some big insight into how people view me and my work.  So, like a boy asking a girl out on a date I’m always nervous at the start but I ask anyway…

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Alright, 3 tips on asking for feedback:
  1. Get feedback as soon as you complete the event so that your performance is fresh in the audience member’s mind.
  2. When you get feedback try not to be defensive.  Unless the person offering advice is malicious (in which case don’t ask them in the first place), their feedback is fair from their point of view.  Instead, ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand why they felt the way they did.
  3. Restate the feedback in your words to make sure you heard it right and are not assuming something the other person didn’t mean.

What gets harder is that as a manager you need to give feedback, sometimes unsolicited, because it is so valuable in helping your teammates improve.  So, even weirder is saying “hey, I’d like to give you some feedback on your presentation”, at which point I’m sure half of the recipients are thinking “Yeah, well I’d like to shove my foot up your bum but I’m not offering that am I?”  But given its benefits to your colleague it’s important to put aside this impression and boldly go forth… but maybe go easy on doing it too often.

Topics: presentations, feedback

Career Advice I Wish I Knew Earlier 

Hello.  I started this blog to distribute some of the best career advice I have been given over the many jobs I've had.  I've been fortunate to work for and with some great bosses like Francis DeSouzaNancy Kamei and Rick Roberge, and some unique companies, like The Boston Consulting Group, that invest heavily in making each employee a success even after leaving the firm.

The advice and training I received here stands in sharp contrast to my experiences with some not-so-great bosses and companies I've also worked for.  I'm continualy amazed at how valuable good advice has been in my career so I hope to pass on the good advice, and insights from mistakes I've made, via this blog. 

Thanks in advance for your comments, particularly when you can improve upon the ideas posted.

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