There are a lot of overused, misused, and stale management words used in the workplace, especially buzz words like “granular”, “leading-edge”, “synergy”, etc. Like me, I’m sure you hear them every day, and you have your favorites. There are those that make you cringe every time someone in the office weaves them into a conversation in the hallway or a presentation in a weekly meeting. Along with the words of the day, there are the mainstays including, but not limited to: calibrate, leverage, and my favorite, feedback. As in: Can I see you in my office please? I have some feedback for you. Instant shudder! Then – What happened this time? What am I going to have to fix? What did I do wrong? Who is complaining this time?!
So, what’s wrong with “feedback” anyway?
Let’s break down those silos, go after the low hanging fruit, get synergized and ensure we have a robust process. I digress.
As confident as you are, when someone has “feedback” for you, it usually means you will end up with work to do. The reaction to “I have some feedback for you” is a bit different for me now, than it was when I was first starting out. Although I had the wonderful opportunity to work with an HR leader I respected, I was taken aback slightly when I got “summoned” to my manager’s office to discuss some feedback he had for me. It wasn’t performance review time, I hadn’t received any calls or complaints from customers, what on Earth could this be about? I sat down in front of my manager and he proceeded to tell me I need to follow up with my customers. Essentially what he told me is I cannot simply meet with a team member or customer, agree on what needs to be done, walk away, do the work and move on. In addition to doing the work, I have to make sure that I am keeping others informed on the status of the work and when the task is complete.
Seems easy enough. What was I all worked up for? Well, usually when someone utters the word “feedback”, it means there is noise, followed by some extra work and or cleaning up of a mess.
So, how can we take the anxiety or panic out of our mental state every time someone has feedback for us?
Seek It Out
If you are serious about your work and your career, take the opportunity to get ahead of the feedback. Ask others for their input on your work, the actions you take on the job or your presentation skills, for example. Don’t wait until performance review time and rely on your manager to get 360 degree feedback. This is your career, not your manager’s. When you do ask your coworkers or customers for their observations, be specific with your request. Asking “How am I doing?” may not get you the information you need to continue on the path of success or shed light on how to get back on track.
Periodically, I schedule time with my customers and coworkers and ask them for their insight on my performance. I send the request ahead of the meeting to give them an opportunity to think about specific topics or projects.
Don’t be an information hoarder! When someone is kind enough to offer you information to help you improve your performance, put that knowledge to good use. Evaluate the work that you’ve done, consider the feedback and make adjustments to the work.
After my manager told me I needed to do a better job of following up with my customers, I thought about what it meant and how I could actually do it. I started managing my follow up through use of project plans, checklists and reminders in my calendar. These methods are not foolproof, but they certainly helped me make incremental improvements over time. Find what works for you and be consistent; stick with it!
Give it Back
Effective feedback requires give and take. As a recipient, you need to be open to hearing what your manager, customer or peer is sharing with you. As you provide feedback, you need to be clear and specific. Share what you have personally observed and focus on the actual work, not the individual’s style or personality.
Just as I seek input from others, I am available to share my feedback with them.
Next time someone asks if you have time for feedback – seize the window of opportunity to get on the same page! It will not only ensure you are in sync with your coworkers, but you will be able to raise the bar on your performance and get on the fast track to moving the needle!