Thought Leadership

Asking for Feedback: Do You Have a Plan?

By Robert Hughes

Feedback continues to be a hot topic of discussion in leadership and management circles and it should be, since it’s a very powerful tool for improvement. If you’ve been following the feedback conversation, you’ll recognize some of the most important precepts regarding feedback:

  1. Feedback is critically important for self-awareness and growth.
  2. More frequent, informal feedback is far better than just annual feedback.
  3. Feedback is powerful, but tricky, since it involves humans that come equipped with a range of emotions.
But let’s keep one more precept at the forefront of the discussion. Let’s remember that asking for feedback is the critical step that enables you to gain information and perspective about how others see you. For leaders, this is very important.

If you’re a leader, let’s ask the hard question: are you asking for feedback? If you are, then you’re leading by example and demonstrating to others that you have a growth mindset and genuinely care about getting better. If you aren’t, you’re entering a danger zone and run the risk of slipping into complacency. You’re missing the opportunity to identify and mitigate potentially career de-railing blindspots.

Planning To Ask For Feedback

With all the demands that come with being a leader, it’s very easy to put your own development and growth on the back burner. If you fall into that trap, you’re likely setting yourself up for a career wake-up call: wow, I had no idea I was (fill in the blank). Having a plan to “Ask” for feedback is a way to avoid surprises and ensure that you continue to improve your self-awareness, development and growth.

The purpose of asking for feedback is to receive specific and useful feedback to help you continue to develop and grow as a leader. Too often, we receive feel good feedback such as “keep doing what you’re doing” or “you’re doing great” which is nice to hear but isn’t helpful for development or growth. To get better feedback, you need a plan to ask for better feedback. For example, if interaction with senior audiences is an area you’re trying to improve, your chances of having a useful feedback conversation will improve if you have a plan to focus and guide the discussion. Instead of asking, “How did I do?” be more specific. “I’m working on improving my interaction with senior audiences and I’d appreciate your feedback. Do I come across as prepared and confident?” By asking for specific feedback, you’re much more likely to receive specific and constructive feedback from the person you’ve asked for feedback.

Building Your Feedback Plan

Chances are you already know the areas or skills where you’d benefit from honest and constructive feedback so developing a simple feedback plan won’t be difficult. To develop your individual feedback plan, start by making a list of the things that will help you improve your self-awareness, development and growth. Once you have your list, think about situations that will provide an opportunity for feedback and the people that you can ask for honest and constructive feedback. Below is a sample framework for an individual feedback plan:

Feedback Focus: Executive Presence

Opportunity: Monthly Leadership Update

Person to Ask: Lisa (Peer from operations)

When you’re in a leadership role, it’s often easy to neglect your own development and growth. Asking for feedback is a critical part of your continuous improvement and leadership journey. Getting the most out of asking for feedback, requires having a plan. Do you have a feedback plan?

Robert "Bob" Hughes is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Executive Education and Senior Program Director of Kellogg Executive Education. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel and served most recently as the Chief of Force Management and Integration at the Department of the Army, Washington D.C. Col. Hughes served as the first Senior Army Fellow posted at Kellogg, where he spent a year forming the strategic partnership between Kellogg and the U.S. Army.

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