Asking for feedback effectively is a skill that you can learn. It involves preparing the right questions, identifying the right feedback givers, and productive conversations.
Prepare the right questions
There are two types of question you can ask in order to receive feedback:
1. Yes / No questions
This allows people to give you a straightforward answer. You can use this type of question to quickly confirm an idea, and obtain straight-to-the-point information.
For example: “Do you think it is a good idea?” or “Do you think we should take this course of action?”
You can use this to evaluate ideas or options, and can also try weighting the answers. For example if 9 out of 10 say yes, the idea is probably worth pursuing. However bear in mind these are closed questions that do not allow much room for interpretation or discussion. It’s probably best to use them if you are looking for quick input.
2. Open-ended questions
This type of question requires more detailed answers, which you can use when you want to gather additional information, or have a larger discussion around a certain topic. You can ask questions that help you better understand the context of the person’s feedback and the impact your behavior is having.
Imagine your manager says you could improve your time management. In order to get more context, you might ask questions such as:
- What do you think is currently not working with my time management?
- What do you think may have impacted my time management skills?
- What could I do to improve?
- What steps can I take to prepare for the next project?
A take-away tip: Open-ended questions are great for seeking coaching advice.
Identify the right feedback givers
Now you’ve determined what sort of questions to ask, you need to find who to ask. The best place to start is your closest circle, namely your team, your manager, and possibly even friends and family. Anyone who has worked closely with you will be able to give you insight into your strengths and things you could improve on.
Once you’ve identified the person you want to start with, give them a heads up. For example via email: “Could we please meet in the next couple of days? I’d like to ask for your feedback on my new project. When would be a good time for you?”.
Once you’ve asked one or several people in your close circle, widen your search. It could be people you worked with on a specific one-off project, or people from other companies or offices you’ve worked with. Don’t forget that peer feedback is also important, so be sure to ask your colleagues and not just your manager or people senior to you.
Feedback from different sources gives you more perspective and helps you form a more holistic view (like in 360 degree feedback). Feedback doesn't always have to be in person, you can use a platform like Impraise to ask for feedback from several people at once digitally and then follow up in person if needed.
Productive feedback conversations
You want feedback conversations to flow naturally and comfortably. That is the best way to gain the information you need and maintain a good relationship with the people giving it. Use the following steps in order to have productive feedback sessions:
1. Thank people for their time
Show your appreciation when others spend time giving you their opinion and advice. This also encourages people to give you more feedback in the future.
2. Be specific
It is helpful to include context for someone to refer to. When you want feedback on a certain skill, be as specific as possible.
3. Listen attentively
You are listening to a perspective which might be different to yours. Make sure you listen carefully so you understand what is being said, not just what resonates with your own perceptions.
4. Ask clarifying questions
Clarifying questions are a great way to confirm you understand and widen the search for more coaching advice.
5. Take notes
Keep notes of the feedback you received so you can come back to it in the future. Treat the notes like a commitment with yourself to change and improve.
6. Commit and follow up
Let people know you value their time and effort. Make a commitment to get back to them when you feel you have implemented some changes using their feedback.
Asking for feedback is a great way to help you grow professionally and personally. Pro-actively asking for it will help you learn faster. Ask yourself which areas or skills you want to develop, so you can prepare the right questions and approach the right people. By pro-actively asking for feedback, you may also become an example for others on your team, and help to develop a culture of feedback within your organization.
Get into the feedback mindset, download our e-book on How to Give Effective Feedback to help guide you.