Career Advice

How to Ask Your Boss for Feedback (And Actually Get What You Need!)

I recently read an interesting stat from Price Waterhouse Cooper that indicated nearly 60% of polled employees said they would like feedback from their bosses on a daily or weekly basis. More interesting than that, for employees under age 30, the desire for regular feedback flow jumped to 72%.

Being a CEO for nearly 20 years, and having managed millennial workers for a good part of that time, I agree with these findings. But what has bothered me for the longest of time is the fact that so few employees, millennials or not, know how to effectively ask for feedback and then use that feedback constructively to improve their performance.

It’s important to the success of one’s career trajectory to get constructive feedback frequently along the way.  Feedback will help you meet expectations and avoid the miscommunications that waste everyone’s time and put your prospects for growth at risk.

I’ve found that employees who effectively solicit feedback from management, and implement that criticism wisely, inevitably end up becoming the top performers in their fields. So, based on my experience managing some of digital marketing’s most promising talents, here are my guidelines for getting and using the feedback that will open pathways to a bright, productive future.

#1 Ask at The Appropriate Time and Place

I’m all for giving employees candid feedback about their performance, but I can’t believe the ridiculous times and places I have been asked for it. I’ve been asked while getting lunch on line at the local deli, during company holiday parties, at my desk after a sales call that didn’t go so well, even while washing my hands in the lavatory!

The best way to solicit feedback from your manager is to set up a time with them and when they know that’s the topic of the meeting.  Email them.  Explain that you want to make sure you are meeting expectations and looking for ways to improve your work performance. Ask for a 15 minute appointment when you can discuss it.

Whatever you do, don’t impulsively query your boss just because you run into them in a public space.  Do not interrupt their day. Don’t put them on the spot in front of others.  Set something up ahead of time.  And if they don’t reply to your first email (trust me, bosses get A LOT of emails and its easy for some items to fall through the cracks) do a follow-up email a few days later, just to make sure they got your request.

#2 Go in With a Specific Agenda and Document the Feedback

When the time comes to have your appointed feedback session, limit your discussion to three or four specific areas. These can be critiques about your core competencies, performance on recent projects or other opportunities where you can apply or expand your skill set. The idea is to keep things simple.  Make your inquiry about performance clear and specific, not vague and general. At the same time, don’t bombard your boss with a list of 20 items. That would be draining. Focus on the several areas where you most want your manager’s input.

Be sure to take notes during the meeting.  Make it a listening session and concentrate on accurately transcribing your manager’s comments. Shortly after the meeting, while the discussion is fresh, follow up with an email.  Be proactive.  Outline the actions you are going to take to enhance your performance. Keep it succinct.  And keep it strictly between you and your manager; don’t go copying Human Resources or your boss’s boss with your email, unless specifically directed to by your manager.

#3 Put the Feedback to Work

Too many times I remember having really positive and constructive feedback session with an employee, a meeting they initiated, only to never hear from them again.  It’s like they receive the feedback, but have no clue how to apply it to their work situation.  That’s why it’s crucial to set up a timeline, so you can start tracking your improvement. Set a goal. Make it 30 days, the end of the quarter, by the end of a business initiative. Whatever, but make sure you set a time frame.  Consciously implement the areas of improvement identified during your feedback session and make a note of what did or didn’t work for you. Then, after the time you allotted yourself, send your boss an email outlining your progress. Include specific instances when you stretched your skills or otherwise brought discussed improvements to the work process, and make note of the results.

Having the feedback session is not the goal in itself. You must show your boss (and yourself) that you are capable of implementing recommended changes to your behaviors at work, and that those changes contribute positively to the larger enterprise.

#4 Make Feedback an Ongoing Process

Ultimately, your goal should be to make feedback an ongoing process. In my company, we have forgone the typical 6-month review model many businesses follow. Those types of reviews can be intimidating, and they’re not frequent enough to catch bad habits before they form.  Instead, we make providing feedback a fluid process that can happen at any time.  At the end of a project, at the end of a week.  It’s major part of our work culture to provide one another with instant feedback, whether it’s praise or constructive criticism.

So whether your company has formal review times or no review times at all, make it your priority to solicit feedback, not only from your managers, but from your co-workers, clients and vendors. Make it a regular process and continuously shape your performance based upon the constructive criticism you receive.

Gabriel Shaoolian is a career growth expert, former marketing executive with 20+ years’ experience, and Founder of DesignRush, a digital destination to inspire creativity, featuring best designs by industry, spotlight interviews with top designers, trends, events & breaking news.

 

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