getting feedback — part 3: First Move

June 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Last time we looked at some of the nuances around simply asking for feedback. Now let’s talk about the First Move. If you believe that you have a good manager/mentor, and you believe that they would actually like to help, then it’s worth pursuing their feedback even when they keep putting it off.

By you making the first move, you can actually solve several problems at once. A good suggestion is for you to write your own review, in whatever format you like, then present it to your boss for comments and dialog. By doing so, you…

1) Take a lot of work off his/her plate to get the process started, which is often the most difficult, time consuming part.

2) Soften the worry over HR-related issues by you actually bringing up your weak points.

3) Remove uneasiness around discussing negative topics.

4) Show a heckuva lot of initiative that is usually quite impressive.

And as a final suggestion, you may want to ask the Sinking-Boat question. “If the boat is sinking, and you need to start thinking about people to throw overboard, where would I be on that list?” Don’t ask for specific names ahead or behind you, just a rank on where you are. Ask it with a bit of a smile to break the tension, but press it as a friendly discussion and pay careful attention to the answer, even if it’s said in jest. An answer of, “Well, Bosworth, let’s just say you better have your vest ready!” Likely means you’re in good shape due to the joking response. And obviously, something like, “You’re going to be dry a long time!” would also bode well. But attempts to dodge the question either as a joke or as a serious reassurance should be a red flag. “What makes you ask something like that?” or “I think our boat is fine” would cause me some concern.

You may be saying, “How good is this mythical boss you’re writing about if I have to go to these lengths just to get feedback?” Frankly, it’s an irrelevant question for me to answer because only you can really decide if it’s worth the effort or not. If you believe it is, then these techniques may be of some use to you.

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