Whenever you buy products or services, if that company gives two cents for improving, they are bound to ask for your feedback. The consumer’s voice helps guide a business in its efforts to connect with its ideal audience in the best way possible. Modern integrated survey and analytics tools like Alchemer make that potential even more actionable.
But the power of feedback isn’t just limited to organizations. Individual employees can use it to identify areas for improvement and shore up weaknesses. In a world where the career ladder is a myth, we have to navigate a maze instead. Feedback from others can light up our path a few steps ahead at a time.
Why, then, do so many people underwhelm when it comes to soliciting and acting on feedback for their own improvement? This is a skill unto itself, and you can study and practice it to get better and move forward in your career.
The biggest obstacle to making the most of work-related feedback isn’t a lack of awareness. Nor is it a question of methods of practicing or means of gathering information. It’s an issue of mentality.
Thousands of years of evolution have resulted in our minds being wired to consistently place greater importance on negative stimuli. This phenomenon is called negativity bias. It’s useful in a survival sense because in fight-or-flight situations, the speed and power of your response are all that matters.
Unfortunately, we’ve carried this bias out of the wilderness and over to many other aspects of modern living. That includes the workplace. Facing criticism from our peers or performance reviews from our bosses is likely to trigger stress and prompt defensive reactions.
Without priming yourself psychologically to overcome this negativity bias, your receptiveness to feedback will be diminished. Even if you go out of your way to ask people how you can improve, you might end up discounting what they say.
Reflect on the real reasons driving you to seek feedback. Are you asking others to fish for compliments? If so, you might want to work on boosting your self-esteem first. People who have a higher level of confidence are more capable of taking criticism in stride and using it as a tool to identify how they can get better.
Be specific and timely
There’s a rule of thumb in the customer service industry: respond to service requests and reviews within 24 hours. Studies have backed up the value of this practice. The timeframe matters because customers want to talk about something fresh in their minds.
Drag out the response time, and not only do you force customers to put up with a problem for longer than necessary, but you also make them bear a greater cognitive burden. They will have to recollect details and recount unpleasant experiences. Relying on memory can make issues fuzzy and the whole ordeal frustrating.
When you’re soliciting feedback about your work performance, remember that what matters to you might not be as important to others. They can quickly forget details and fail to pinpoint what exactly you could’ve done better.
SMART methodology is widely used for improvement across organizations. That acronym also works well in this endeavor. Timely questions will give you more useful feedback. Being specific and probing along yes/no lines of questioning is also more likely to yield actionable items for realistic and measurable improvements.
Encourage more feedback
Self-improvement to reach your career goals isn’t a one-off action. Perhaps collecting one round of feedback and working on specific areas will help you land a promotion or a new job. But it won’t take you much further.
This process yields better results when you adopt a continuous approach. The practice of acquiring information about yourself and improving based on the results must be integrated into how you go about your job.
Seeking feedback needs to become a self-sustaining loop. That means making it easy and comfortable for others to give feedback. You have to recognize that just as it’s psychologically difficult for you to receive criticism, it can be tough for them to dish it out.
Express your gratitude to people who take the time and effort to give you some well-meant, actionable, constructive criticism. Demonstrate accountability by actually working to change those aspects so that those people will know that their advice was taken to heart.
Finally, recognize that you, too, could be in a position to make a difference in other people’s careers. Be mindful about how you approach them and suggest ways to improve, and they can become more valuable colleagues, future collaborators, even bosses in this unpredictable world of work.