Asking for Feedback – Improving Your Performance at Work

Were you caught unawares by your last performance review? Take a look at this article, which describes how to go about getting feedback at the office before your formal review comes around.

By Kevin Augustine

Most companies have a set method for providing feedback to their employees. This usually comes in the shape of a formal review process perhaps twice a year, or whenever they change roles. However, it doesn't help you very much if somebody tells you what you need to improve after you are done with your role (and have no chance to correct it) or after the rises and promotions have been decided for the year. You need to be proactive in asking for feedback from your managers, or even the team you manage, so you can make that formal review a good one.

This can be a very intimidating task for lots of people. Hearing criticism is never easy, and this is what many people fear. However, the only way to improve yourself, and subsequently your career advancement, is to get this kind of feedback and work upon it. Let's break this down into two parts: getting feedback from your manager and getting feedback from your team.

Manager Feedback
Getting feedback from your manager: daunting? absolutely. Impossible? absolutely not. While it may seem scary at first, not only is it necessary – as they will be writing your review in most cases – but also they will actually appreciate the fact that you are looking for ways you can improve your performance.

How do you approach them? This is relatively simple as well. All you really have to do is ask. I would do this in person as opposed to over email, because you can make it more of a fluid question and answer session. Once they agree to provide you with some feedback, set up a meeting time and reserve a private room. This is not something that you should do at your cubicle or theirs, as you want honest, unedited feedback (read: not censored for everybody around you). Send a meeting invite if possible so that it appears on their calendar, mainly because if they are very busy you don't want it to slip their mind (or yours for that matter).

Now that the meeting is setup, you need to prepare for it. I would brainstorm for any specific questions you have about areas where you think you might not be performing as well as you could be. Conversely, if you think you are performing at a high level in a certain area, you might want to ask their opinion. Write these down as bullet points to bring up during the meeting.

At the meeting, be sure to write down any improvements that they suggest. If you don't agree with something, discuss it with them now, as there is no better time to do it. Keep the tone of the meeting professional. It is extremely important to remember that this is constructive criticism, not a personal attack on you. Taking this personally will not only stop you from improving in the suggested areas, but probably lower your performance in other areas as well. Also, make sure to ask how you can improve in some of these areas. It does you no good if you know where you need to improve but have no idea how to do it.

Team Feedback
This might seem even more daunting than getting feedback from your manager. With your manager, at least they are above you on the food chain so criticism is a little easier to swallow. With those you manage, this can be difficult. However, it is very necessary because how your team performs reflects on you, and if you can improve their performance in any way you want to do it.

It is a good idea to setup team meetings every week or so. This is dependent on what you are working on, but I find that anything more frequent than once or twice a week is unnecessary. A good idea, once you setup the frequency of your meetings, is to have them on the same day each week, and reserve a room in advance for multiple weeks. This puts your team into a routine so they are ready for the meeting each week, making it more productive.

The goal of the meeting does not have to be strictly feedback for you – I would make that only a part of the meeting, perhaps at the end. You should ask if there is anything that the team feels that could be going better, and what improvements you can make as their manager. Obviously, you probably won't implement all of their suggestions, but if you just get a few good ones out of it then you will notice a significant improvement in your team's performance.

Overall, you don't get any better if you don't know what you need to work on. If you don't get any better, you don't get the promotion or the rise that you wanted. Ultimately, this is why the burden of self-improvement falls on your shoulders. Get that informal feedback, and make your formal review shine.

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