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Home » Careers, Featured, Management

Ask and You Shall Receive…Just be Prepared to Receive

Submitted by on November 15, 2008 4 Comments
peer-feedback-is-hard-to-hear

Everyone loves to hear their name sung in praise as it stokes the flames burning in our egos. Most people crave recognition for achievements, but this shouldn’t be considered a negative trait because it is part of the engine that drives people to succeed.

The results from effort put into self-development are greatly improved by adding a feedback process. When the feedback process is completed correctly, it will be provide valuable insight and be an important skill builder. However if it is not done correctly, it will have the effect of reinforcing wrong messages all the way to completely demoralizing a person.

People, especially in management positions, can directly ask for peer feedback.  I have found this process to be enlightening, and hard to hear at times. No one is perfect, and we all have areas that we need to improve; it is just unpleasant to hear about them in a direct, matter-of-fact, manner. However, if I do not know the areas of weakness then how can I improve?

When asking for peer feedback, I explain to the person, that I am requesting feedback from, what are my goals of the conversation, and I ask them to be completely honest with me.

I start off by asking what they feel are my strengths, and what aspects of my responsibilities I truly excel. With every topic I ask for examples to make sure I have a reference to draw upon, and to be sure that I really understand what they are saying in real-world context.

Next, I move to aspects of my leadership, management, and job responsibilities that they feel I operate at an average level.  These are areas that are most easily improved upon with just a bit of more focus. I ask for more examples and their comments on what/how I should improve.

Lastly, I want to know the areas that are below expectations. This is the hardest to hear, and the hardest for most people to give.  As the recipient of feedback, I make an earnest effort to instill trust, security, and be non-confrontational. I detach from my emotional side, the best that I can, and embrace my logical side.

I ask in non-threatening ways to better understand where I have not met expectations.  Examples are important, and I ask for advice on specific situations so I can get their perspective on what must be improved.  It may take effort and coaxing to get them to open up, but it is well worth the effort. It is very import not get defensive or engage in ‘setting the record straight’. This will lower trust and cut the likelihood anyone will take part in the process in the future.

Working with peers to get direct feedback takes effort and trust. If you are not accustomed to hearing direct feedback, then the first few times will be uncomfortable.

Everything that has worth has a price, and self-development is no different.

4 Comments

  • I know what you mean Michael! It’s a fine line between really wanting to help someone you care about by giving them feedback you don’t like, and not giving it to them to prevent hurting feelings. A conundrum of complexity. It really depends on the emotional maturity of the recipient. People who give the best feedback can assess this through their Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Without EQ, giving feedback is like walking through a minefield…

  • Simon,

    I am currently participating in our annual review process and coaching program. Peer reviews and feedback have been part of both programs, and I can already start see the changes in myself and the team as a result of feedback process. When people believe in the process and trust one another, the results are quickly achieved.

    Personally, giving feedback is much harder then receiving feedback. The last thing I want to do is damage a relationship because a person takes the provided feedback the wrong way. I have attempted to be very aware of the words I use to give feedback so the message is clear without seeming to be harsh or condescending.

    One thing that I am beginning to realize is the roll of communication and how that alters peer perception of skills and abilities. I think this will be a post I will start to work on.

  • Hey Michael this is a great subject to cover, and you covered it well. Feedback is a tricky process as on the surface it’s an exchange of information but underneath it’s almost always an exchange of emotions and personal feelings. This is what makes it important, but also what makes it tough. Like you say

    Hearing feedback is tough.
    Giving feedback is tougher.

    Feedback is a gift. I recently covered feedback in my series on why personality is very important for leaders, and feedback is a way to check how we perceive ourselves differs (or not) from the perception of others. A big difference, I think, results in unpredictable behaviors and ultimately, bad leadership.

    My article: As A Leader, Your Personality Is Everything (Part Four)

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