A question that often comes up when I facilitate workshops on effective feedback is that people seem to think there’s no-one to ask. After all, feedback isn’t just about giving other people constructive comments on their performance; we need feedback on our own. And the way of the world – or at least this part of it – is all too often not to spontaneously give it. Even rarer is for someone to ask another person to give them feedback (yes, this happens in 360-degree feedback but seldom, if ever, are giver and receiver face-to-face when the feedback is given).
I’m not so sure you’re fresh out of people you can ask. My hunch is you’re not thinking deeply and broadly enough. There’s a whole A-Z of people you can ask for feedback on all the different aspects of your performance, be they in the meeting room, at the podium, the gym or in a coaching conversation.
A is for Audience. If you’re doing a presentation or talk, elicit feedback on your performance at the end. You can give people small cards, or ask them to write on Post-Its, or you can use online polling tools.
B is for Buddy. If you’ve been on a training/development course, it’s a great idea to buddy up with a fellow participant so you can give and get feedback on how you’re both applying the learning.
C is for Coach. Many employers now have an in-house ‘faculty’ of managers who’ve trained to be coaches. Or you can find one privately, by recommendation. What aspect of your performance can a coach give you feedback on? For example, you could role-play a tricky conversation you know you’ve got to have and get feedback from your coach about how to handle it more effectively.
D is for Director. Tread carefully: they’re not always as approachable as they’d like you to think. And they are busy. Very busy. But I’m willing to bet their answer to a question like ‘what’s the one thing you wish people in my job would do more of?’ will be a light-bulb moment.
E is for Ex-bosses. Commit to keep in touch with former colleagues, ‘you never know where they’ll turn up’ is wise advice. Not only that, with the distance gained by working in different places comes the space to talk openly with less at stake.
F is for Finance. Head to your Finance Department and get their feedback on how you can make your employer more profitable (and how you can plug any leaks).
G is for Grandparents. Or any other older relative who can remember you as a much younger person. What stood out for them about you when you were a child? What came to you naturally? Warning: seeking feedback from spouses, parents and siblings risks damaging significant relationships – unless and until you are both very skilled at giving and receiving feedback. Or in therapy together. Avoid alcohol. And weddings. And Christmas.
H is for Heroes. There’s someone beyond your field of work that you look up to and admire. How can you get feedback from them? It may take the form of advice; nothing wrong with that.
I is for Intern. Nothing quite like a fresh pair of eyes to be able to spot and comment on your blind spots.
J is for Junior employee. Develop your skills for putting newbies at ease, so that they’re comfortable giving you feedback. They might surprise you.
K is for Kindred spirits. People who just get you. If you’re feeling brave you could ask them to ‘feed forward’, in other words identify an action to take in order to boost your performance.
L is for Learner. Next time you teach a colleague how to do something, be sure to ask for their feedback.
M is for Mentor. If you’re serious about career progress, get a mentor. And when you’re having that important initial discussion about both your expectations, DOs and DON’Ts and so on, establish that you will ask them for feedback.
N is for Non-Exec. If your employer has Non-Executive Directors, they can be an excellent source of plain speaking, so ask them for feedback.
O is for Outsiders. Service providers, clients and other stakeholders outside your organisation can be valuable sources of feedback, as they often bring a completely different organisational perspective to bear.
P is for Peers. It’s well worth establishing an informal agreement with a few hand-picked people amongst your peers, ideally from different disciplines, to give and get feedback.
Q is for the Quiet ones. Do not underestimate these people. They will most certainly have an opinion about how you’re doing, and it’s quite likely well thought through.
R is for Realist – someone you can rely upon to tell you straight. You just might learn something from how they say it as well as what they say.
S is for Skilled people. They’ve got the skill you want to develop; how can you persuade them to give you feedback? Could you offer a skill swap?
T is for Teacher. You can reconnect with a teacher from different points in your education and seek feedback from them. Or if you’re currently being instructed for essential workplace skills, be sure to get clear feedback from the teacher/trainer.
U is for Unusual. Who would be an unusual choice to ask for feedback? Why? What might you gain/lose by trying and asking them?
V is for Valediction. When a colleague bids farewell, it can be a priceless opportunity to get their feedback, as they’ve far less at stake. Choose carefully, or simply brace yourself.
W is for workmates. You know that person who always seems to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat for your team? Try seeking feedback from them on how your team can improve.
X is for X-ray. Identify people who have the ability to pinpoint the details. Big picture feedback can only get you so far – and often fails to help you identify the exact next steps to take. You need to seek feedback from people with X-ray vision.
Y is for Yoda. What would he say? Got a guru in your professional network? Could they be your personal Yoda?
Z is for Zenith. We’re talking about those at the highest point in their career. Follow them on social media and you’ll soon get some ideas and advice, and if you build a relationship with them, you may be able to ask for feedback.