How to ask for feedback

Do you find asking for feedback uncomfortable? While it may cause you some initial anxiety, it’s an essential part of professional development. When you actively ask for feedback, you learn more — faster. With some preparation, you can gain useful and contextual information to support your growth.

Asking for feedback effectively is a skill that you can learn. It involves preparing the right questions, identifying the right feedback givers, and having productive conversations.

Prepare the right questions

There are a few common types of question you can ask in order to receive feedback:

1. 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.

Here are some of the most insightful open ended questions to ask:

Open-ended questions are great for seeking coaching advice, you can ask them of anyone in the organization who you aspire to be like or learn from.

2. Yes / No or rating based questions

This allows people to quickly give you a straightforward answer. You can use this type of question to quickly confirm an idea or validate a hunch.

For example: “Have I show improvements in X?” or “Do you think I/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 only if you are looking for quick input.

Identify the right people to ask for feedback

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 close collaborators. They are likely in the best position to give you insight into your strengths and things you could improve on.

Feedback from different sources 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.

Wether you are asking for feedback digitally or in-person, send the individuals you'd like feedback from a quick heads up so they can mentally prepare.

If relevant for the type of feedback you are after, 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.

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. Ask for honesty

Encourage the people you ask for feedback to be helpful over nice. Let them know you are looking to get the the most out of their time and their honesty is valued and appreciated.

2. Be specific and timely

It is helpful to ask for feedback in context and in a timely manner, it can make it easier for the person you've asked for feedback to recall specific behaviors and examples that can facilitate your learning. For example, if want feedback on how you are developing on a certain skill it can be helpful to ask after a project or moment where you specifically used this skill.

3. Listen to learn

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. It's natural to only hear what you want to but remain open to what is being shared.

4. Ask clarifying questions

Clarifying questions are a great way to confirm you understand and widen the search for more coaching advice. In many cases, simply asking questions like "Why is this important? or " How might I approach this differently?" are a great place to start.

5. Take notes

Keep notes of the feedback you received so you can reference them as you need. Treat the notes like a commitment with yourself to change and improve.

6. Commit and follow up

Show your appreciation when others spend time sharing their perspective and providing constructive insights. This also encourages people to give you more feedback in the future. Make sure to follow up with your plan and progress, it's nice for people to see how their feedback has impacted you.

Summary

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.

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