(Thanks to Seth Godin for planting the seed for this post – this is post 2 on this topic, see Post 1 if you want to start at the beginning)

I have talked to dozens of groups about feedback, and in almost every case someone comes to me and asks me to give them feedback based on my interactions with them.  I applaud their willingness to seek feedback, but it is the wrong place to start because there is no context.  Some feedback is too broad.  So if you want feedback, here are some tips for gathering valuable feedback.

Step 1:  Mentally be ready

Feedback is not about feeling good (that’s applause), it is about getting better.  There are ways to effectively give feedback that allows us to not only reflect on successes (things we need to KEEP doing), but also identify where we can get better (START doing and STOP doing items).  Regardless of the method, to receive the feedback you have to first prepare yourself to get it, because it is always hard to hear.

Jodi Glickman wrote a book called Great On The Job, and in it she outlines some very simple advice on feedback.  Here are the phases/steps she outlines for getting valuable feedback.

Phase 1:  The Preparation

  1. Plant the Seed
  2. Schedule the Conversation
  3. Provide Specific Guidance (of What You’re Looking For)

Phase 2:  The Conversation

  1. Ask for Concrete Ways to Improve
  2. Say Thank You
  3. Wait, Digest, and Revisit

The number one miss I see happening is skipping Phase 1.  The key to this step is letting people know you will be asking and helping them understand what would help you the most.  If you are working on your nerves – ask them to watch for signs you are nervous.  If you are working on use of humor, ask them to track laughter and how effectively you used humor.  The key is to plant the seed and to pick a time to talk about it that is convenient for them and will be the best time for you to hear it.  fyi – sometimes coming off the high of a 2 hour presentation is not a good time for you to really listen to feedback.

I do a lot of presentations to groups, and when it is possible I take one of my children so they get to experience me at work and I have someone that will give me feedback.  In a presentation last year to a group of entrepreneurs I took my oldest daughter.  I told her before I started that I wanted her to watch me and give me feedback on one thing I could do to improve.  At the end, I took her to dinner and asked her what feedback she had for me.  Her response was “You did a good job Dad, but at the end when you went around the room to ask people What one thing you are taking away from our time together?, you talked too much so it dragged.  At that point people want to leave and you need to keep things moving.”

She was right – I did start too many 20-30 second conversations.  It was great, and it happened because I first focused on The Preparation.  Next time I will be better.

Whether it is a One on One or a performance conversation, Always start with preparation.  Remember, leading and being led is about having Honest Conversations that lead to Thoughtful Actions, that result in Improved Performance.

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