I wanted to give some feedback to a colleague since some team members made me aware of a recent situation that was far from optimal. I thought it was a good opportunity for coaching. When I raised it with the person in question, I got a long and emotional monologue defending the way she handled the situation.
Do you find this example familiar?
It shows that there is a fundamental problem with the current feedback model; its success depends on whether the recipient is open to receive it.
If we start seeing feedback as a vehicle to improve our performance, we maybe more open to it. The rewards from the so-called ‘growth mindset’ can be significant.
Think of professional athletes. They have coaches who constantly analyse every little thing they do in order to find ways to improve their performance. We hear in the news that Novan Djokovic will get Andre Agassi as a coach and it sounds perfectly normal. Same thing with senior business people. They have experienced coaches to help them address their development areas.
It seems though that this mentality is less prominent in middle management.
It is of course impossible for any company to hire an external coach for each employee. However, another way to achieve a similar result without any additional cost is to create a community where we help each other to fulfil our potential. Imagine how successful a company that has a ‘growth mindset’ culture can be.
How can this be achieved?
A simple change of the model can yield great results; move away from a culture of giving feedback to a culture of asking for feedback. In other words, don’t give feedback but ask for it.
Ask often. Ask every time you give a presentation. Ask every time you work in a team. Ask different people so you can get different perspectives. Ask people you trust at the beginning but then make a conscious effort to involve a wider circle soon. Ask people to be specific; answers like ‘it was very good’ don’t add a lot of value. Ask what worked well and why, what can I do better next time, etc.
Remember that some people are more used than others in providing constructive feedback. So, try to educate them on what you are looking for. Give them some clues on what you want them to look for.
The more you ask, a) the more specific feedback you will get and b) the more comfortable you will become in receiving it. You will easily spot in which areas you need to focus. The relationships with your colleagues will strengthen. You will foster a new culture that you and others will benefit.
Note that if you don’t ask, it doesn’t mean that people stop having thoughts about how you do your job better. It simply means that you are not aware and you will miss a valuable opportunity to do something about it.
The bottom line: If you want to fulfil your potential, make it a habit to ask for feedback. You can only gain from it.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.