We all know how important feedback is, right? It’s the breakfast of champions and all that. However, it’s awful darn hard to get. People generally aren’t good at giving it. It’s hard to do; people often get defensive, and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
However – if you really want feedback, there are ways to get it. Just make sure you can handle the truth.
Looking beyond the obvious, here’s 10 ways to get more candid feedback:
1. Ask a recruiter. Good recruiters make their living sizing candidates up quickly. They can take a look at your resume and after a 15 minute phone screen, have a pretty good idea about your strengths and weaknesses. However, you have to ask them for a candid, constructive, brutally honest assessment. Then, just listen, keep your mouth shut, and say thank-you. In fact, that’s a good formula for how to receive any kind of feedback. There will be a test on this later.
2. Take a multi-rater assessment. These are basically a survey, often administered by a third party for a fee, that asks your boss, peers, and employees (if you have them) for ratings and comments regarding your behaviors and or skills. Although some reports are self-explanatory, it’s usually better to have a certified feedback giver help you sort through the results.
3. Try Feedforward. See Marshall Goldsmith’s explanation. It’s actually an alternative to feedback, but you get the same constructive information.
4. Try the 10/10 Technique. First, identify something you want to improve – say leading a meeting, delegating, listening, or conducting a one on one. Then, at the end of an interaction with someone, (it only takes about 10 minutes), ask the question: “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate my listening skills?” Usually the answer is not a perfect 10, because you already know it’s something you need to get better at. If it’s anything less than 10, ask the follow-up question: “What would I need to do for you to rate me a 10?”
It works well because it gives you very specific ideas for improvement, in terms of what’s important to the other person. It opens up dialog in a non-threatening way, builds trust, and creates a win-win developmental partnership.
5. Watch yourself on video. This used to be a terrifying way to learn about yourself, although in the age of YouTube, perhaps we’re getting used to seeing ourselves on camera. It’s even better if you have a coach or trainer watch with you to point things out and offer tips for improvement. Better yet, have a bunch of friends over and break out the popcorn and beer.
6. Have someone conduct a stakeholder assessment for you. You can read the full explanation, but it’s kind of like hiring an investigative reporter to interview people to find out what you’re like to work with.
7. Take a validated, reliable personality assessment. Try the Hogan, MBTI, DISC, or others and again, have someone help your interpret the results.
8. Interviews. Again, like with getting feedback from a recruiter, you really have to ask in a nice way, and make sure you do what? That’s right, listen, keep your mouth shut, and say thank-you. Even if you’re not looking for a job, it’s a good idea to go on a practice interview every so often.
9. Ask your boss this question: “Not that I’m going anywhere, but if you had to replace me, what would you look for in the ideal candidate?” It’s a little risky, because you don’t want to give your boss any ideas, but if you have a lot of confidence, you could pull it off. I did this once and was able to drag some very useful information out of my manager that helped me identify some areas I needed to shore up.
10. Ask your teenage kids. I saved this one for last, because it’s the most brutal kind of feedback of all! It’s only for the very brave-hearted and thick-skinned.
I once had a VP tell me "I hate feedback". I had to admire his honesty. Actually, a lot of us do, we just won't admit it. So, if you really don’t want to find out about your weaknesses, and would prefer to keep your head blissfully buried in the sand, then use any or all of these 5 methods:
1. Ask your co-workers, friends, or family members. They can always be counted on to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Thank God for that – after all, who wants to surround ourselves with people that do nothing but criticize us?
2. Performance appraisals. These are usually a candy-coated pack of lies. Yes, if you read between the lines you might be able to pull out a nugget, but managers have gotten really good at covering up what they really think with useless weasel words.
3. Take a strengths finder assessment. People love these things because they make them feel good about themselves. Better yet, take them as a team and you can all feel good about each other. Kumbaya.
4. Customer surveys and comment cards. You’ll rarely get useful information from these methods. In fact, a lot of companies actually incent and punish their service givers to try to avoid getting any constructive feedback at all costs.
5. Your own self-assessment. People are generally blind when it comes to how they come across to others.
What do you think? What are your best and worst ways to get feedback?