Feedback is a critical component of our work. We need to understand whether our performance aligns with what is expected of us. We need to know what we are doing well, what we need to change and how we could improve. We need help to discover opportunities to advance our careers.
One of the common grievances of professionals is that their managers rarely give them adequate feedback. These feelings are not totally unfounded. Managers tend to be busy and deliver feedback only during cursory performance reviews. And, instinctively, managers fear confrontation: they assume that their employees may respond to even the slightest criticism with anger, defensiveness and alienation. Employees, for their part, resent feedback because they dislike being criticized.
This article suggests what you can do to effectively secure feedback from your manager. I have shared this process with several professionals who have successfully adopted it to further develop relationships with their managers.
- Set up regular meetings with your manager to seek feedback. Do not wait for the quarterly or annual performance reviews to solicit it.
- Prepare and send an agenda to your manager at least one day prior to your meeting. Use the questions in the following section to guide your discussions and agenda. Tailor the questions to suit your unique projects and goals. Cover all the broader, important topics on a regular basis.
- Assure your manager that her opinions and suggestions matter and that you will listen to and act on them. You need not necessarily agree with every assessment, but remain open—do not grow defensive or angry. If you must disagree, do so politely. Offer your opinions using phrases such as “Could it be because …,” “how about …,” or “perhaps, another way to look at this is ….”
- Ask for specific examples. Take down notes. Conclude the meeting by thanking your manager. Affirm that you will develop and share with her a plan of action.
- Review your notes from the meeting. Look for patterns in her comments and suggestions. In a day or two, follow up with your action plan.
Ten Questions to Ask to Solicit Feedback from Your Manager
- “How am I doing on project or goal X? What can I do differently to be more effective?
- “My most important projects or goals are X, Y and Z. Do you think I have the priorities right?
- “Am I meeting your expectations in keeping you updated on my progress / project X? How can I organize information better to help you understand my projects and our achievements?
- “What goals do you see for me on project X (or over the next N months?) How will you measure me against these goals?
- “What strengths do I bring to your team? What personal skills will enable me to grow and contribute better?
- “How do you see my career developing in this organization over the long-term? What suggestions do you have to prepare me for such opportunities?
- “What steps do you suggest I take to broaden my exposure to our functional area and build my skills? What specific steps can I take to widen my perspective in our functional area? What key challenges will I face?
- “What can I do to expand my role? May I assume any additional responsibilities?
- “What are your goals for the immediate future? What are your team’s most important projects and initiatives? How can I best support your goals?
- “How do you think our organization and customers will change in the future? What opportunities do you see? What challenges will we face? How will our roles evolve? How can we prepare? What is our management’s perspective on the future?”
This article suggests an informal and practical process to solicit feedback from your manager. By exercising initiative, asking the right questions and proactively soliciting feedback, you can recognize and adapt to your manager’s and the organization’s expectations of you and discover prospects for larger responsibilities and promotions.
Your manager will appreciate your eagerness to openly communicate, improve, adapt, and contribute further. She will be more forthcoming in her assessment of your work and more likely to offer suggestions for improvement.
By understanding your manager’s expectations and priorities, you can secure the support and resources you need to achieve your goals. Keeping your manager informed helps foster dependability and build a stronger, mutually beneficial working relationship that helps you, your manager and the organization.