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Requesting Feedback

Asking others for feedback is one of the most difficult tasks in the feedback process. The quality of what you hear and how much you hear depends on how you ask for it.

Who to ask —

Request feedback from someone who

  • can observe your behavior
  • is interested in your success
  • is able to speak to you directly, honestly, and in specifics
  • is someone you respect and trust
  • is without a hidden agenda
  • has worked with you at least six months

How to ask —

There is no point in asking if what you receive is vague feedback that leaves you unsure what new behavior to take on, what you should stop, or what you should continue. To ensure you'll receive feedback you actually can use, ask using this framework:

  1. Situation. Begin by asking where and when the specific behavior occurred. Ask: "Briefly describe the situation and setting where the behavior occurred."
  2. Behavior. Next ask about the characteristics, observable actions, verbal and non-verbal behaviors that need to be changed or improved. Continue: "Include as many details as you can not only about what I did or said, but also about how I said it or did it."
  3. Impact. Finally, you want to learn the consequences of the behavior — what the person thinks or feels and how the behavior affects others. Ask: "How did you feel about what I did (or said)?"
    Example"Rachael, I want to say thanks for taking the time to fill out my 360-degree questionnaire. I've been away this week at the leadership development program, and I've really learned a lot about my work style and my needs for improvement. That wouldn't have happened without your help."
    Example"We have the monthly capital budget meeting this afternoon, which I know you're scheduled to attend. I'll be talking about cutting costs in the distribution center, and I'd like you to observe me if that's possible. I want to improve my communication skills — specifically, to make my points clearly and not drift off the subject. Could you observe me and then speak with me afterwards about how I did?"

Dos and Don'ts when using the S-B-I Technique

• Let the person finish what he or she is saying.
• Try to paraphrase, either back to the person or in your own mind, what you hear using S-B-I.
• Ask clarifying questions.
• Ask for specifics, if not provided.
• Ask the person to give you alternatives to your behavior.
• Pay attention to your non-verbal responses
• Respect those who do not wish to give you feedback.
• Thank the person for helping you.

• Become defensive or explain your behavior.
• Interrupt the other person. You asked for the feedback, now listen to it.
• Be afraid to allow pauses and periods of silence when you receive feedback — if you were sincere about your request, people will take the time think about what they say.
• Seek feedback from your fan club only.

Source: Ongoing Feedback: How to Get It, How to Use It, by Karen Kirkland and Sam Manoogian
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