The Benefits of Feedback

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How to Take Job Criticism Well and Use the Power of “FeedForward” to Nourish Your Career

By now we’ve all heard about the blunder made last week by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  Nadella’s advice to women who feel uncomfortable asking for a raise was that “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

He really hit a hot-button issue with that one. As we know, asking for a raise and negotiating salary is one of the most influential topics for a woman’s career. Karen Hough, CEO of ImprovEdge, explains why in her recent Huffington Post article.

But let’s take this a step further, ladies. Besides asking for a raise, there is another crucial issue that we tend to shy away from: asking for feedback. 

Feedback’s Fascinating Link to High Earners

Last week I was compiling survey results from our annual women’s leadership conference in August. I had already completed our analysis a few weeks before, but one of our speakers had reached out for her specific session feedback.  As I was crunching numbers it occurred to me – four of our thirty speakers had sought out an evaluation of their speeches/workshops.

Is it a coincidence that those speakers were also the highest-ranking in our surveys?  I don’t think so. In fact, I think it proves a very important point that our highest-performing and most talented leaders know when and how to ask for feedback.

For most people, especially women, fear holds us back from asking for an evaluation. We are afraid of what the answer may be and for good reason – we work hard every single day in our jobs, but not everything can be perfect all the time. On top of that, we tend to dwell on the negative when it comes time for our performance evaluation, worried about what might be discussed.

But ultimately, despite these hesitations, the responsibility to ask for honest feedback is completely ours.  Following is a set-by-step guide to make the process easier.

Feedback or FeedForward? Both are Crucial 

Your Meeting Plan

To start, go into the conversation with a plan.  Before you ask for feedback, think through what you would like to learn. Take time to contemplate what you believe are your greatest strengths, and which areas you know you can improve.

If it helps, jot down a list beforehand. Also think: what would be most helpful for you to walk away with? If your goal is to have a raise in six months, you might plant the seed during the talk. Put yourself out there!

Having the Big Discussion

There are four kinds of feedback we should understand:

    • Negative feedback: Corrective comments about past behavior; things that have interfered with the ability to achieve
    • Positive Feedback: Affirming comments about past behavior; things that enhanced the ability to achieve the desired results, and need to be repeated
    • Negative Feedforward: Corrective comments about future behavior; things that should not be repeated as you strive to achieve your goals
    • Positive Feedforward: Affirming comments about future behavior; things that you can do to increase the likelihood you will reach your goals

It’s important to we have a balance of all four types of feedback, so that while your past performance is being evaluated, you are also focusing on your future performance. It’s up to your manager or director to begin framing this discussion, but if you find that the focus is too negative or too focused on past conduct, redirect the conversation. Ask specific questions so that the comments you receive are ones you can act on to enhance chances for future success.

Receiving Feedback

Once you have mustered the courage to ask for feedback, the most difficult part can be responding to it. Sometimes we don’t hear what we expect or want to hear. Sometimes we don’t agree.

Best-case scenario: we are pleasantly surprised by what we hear, yet in an attempt at humility, we awkwardly discount our own successes. To counteract that, I’ll quote our 2014 Keynote Speaker and say, “Own Your Awesome!”

5 things to remember when receiving feedback:

    • Be aware of your body language
    • Keep an open mind
    • Try not to get defensive
    • Listen to the entire message or thought, then reiterate to make sure you understand completely
    • Thank your supporter for the feedback 
Your Action Plan

Prepare yourself to be ready, after the conversation, to create a plan.

You are not allowed to leave this conversation by patting yourself on the back. Likewise, you are not allowed to sulk away in a corner. No matter how you feel afterwards, channel all of your thoughts and feelings into an actionable plan. Set goals and milestones. Write everything down – when you write down goals, you are 33% more likely to achieve it. Then thoughtfully organize them into a game plan.

Feedback Can Be a Valuable Gift

Asking for feedback is something your superiors will notice. It will also set the stage for future conversations, so that when it does come time for you to ask for a raise, it doesn’t come as such a surprise that you are advocating for your career.

Those who are open and accepting to feedback are the ones that grow and develop faster. It’s not easy to hear negative feedback, but it is how you embrace and process it in a useful, constructive way that will have the deepest impact on you and your career journey.

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Contributed by: Maggie Anderson

Maggie-Anderson-photo-by-Josh-Humble-DSC_0343(AVATAR)Maggie Anderson is the Director of Marketing & Business Development for Integrating Woman Leaders, Inc. 

Her personal brand tagline: a champion for adventure, hard work and broadcasting optimism.
You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.