We would all love to get feedback on our performance more regularly than we do. Regular feedback is an important way for us to improve our performance at work. However, it is not unusual for many in the workplace to receive feedback only during their annual performance review. The feedback they receive is not timely enough and likely not specific enough to prove truly helpful in positively impacting performance.
Given that many of us have managers who dread having to complete an annual review, let alone sitting down for performance dialogues more regularly, how might we arrange to get the feedback we need, when we need it, to help us improve our performance faster?
1. Ask. This may seem like an obvious point to start with but that doesn't make it any less effective. And, despite its obvious nature, it doesn't tend to be something that people do consistently, if at all. Don't sit complacently by, assuming that no news is good news. Ask people how you are doing. If you feel this is a little too self-directed then ask people what you might have done differently or better to have met their needs. People will not only open up about your performance, but will offer suggestions you can use to please them better in future. It's your choice as to whether you fulfill those needs or not, but it will tell you a great deal about not only how best to serve others, but about what motivates them also.
2. Question. Don't simply take the first response you get. We often interpret someone's feedback through our own personal filters which may lead us off the track they were highlighting. Before you invest your time and effort in improving in a direction you believe they wanted, ensure you take the time to clarify what they shared. Get a clear picture and specific suggestions before you begin to take action.
3. Listen. People give you feedback continuously, whether you ask for it or not. However, we are typically too caught up in our own thoughts, wants and needs to pay attention to it. Even when others are venting about a project, or the direction it has taken, they might be sharing some feedback for you regarding your role in it. And, it should go without saying, that if you've asked for feedback then you need to listen to what people share with an open mind. Don't rationalize the feedback, don't become defensive and don't shut down. This is information you need to improve; accept it graciously and decide later what value it brings you.
4. Observe. Pay attention to the reactions and behaviours of those around you. You can gain a tremendous amount of feedback just by taking the time to focus on and observe others. Are people looking away and yawning when you are delivering a speech? Are you being sought out for your advice and help or are others being sought out instead? Do people share confidences with you or only talk about the weather? People's actions and behaviours around us tell us a great deal about what they think of us, how we make them feel, what their level of trust is. Take the time to observe others for trends that are trying to tell you something.
5. Learn. Learn from your successes. Learn from your failures. Learn from your observations. Learn from the observations of others. Your experiences provide you with some of the best feedback that there is, but you need to take the time to assess the messages, learn from them and alter your approaches and behaviours accordingly.
Our performance is our responsibility and is our ticket to more. Waiting for a once-a-year performance discussion, to ascertain how you are doing, is not going to enable you to improve as quickly as you could if you were receiving feedback in a more timely manner. Certainly seek more frequent feedback from your manager, but don't limit yourself to their insights. Broadening the scope of the feedback will provide you not only with more feedback, but will enable you to understand which actions would positively impact more people and therefore more opportunities. Take charge of your personal improvement plan by taking a more active role in getting the information you need to improve.