“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use, do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon
A lot of us have baggage about asking for feedback or help when it comes to work because we’re keen to demonstrate as much competence and confidence as we can.
Asking for help makes us feel vulnerable.
We worry that we might appear incompetent if we ask for help. Or maybe we’ll lose our autonomy on a project if someone has a big idea to contribute.
When we ask for help, neuroscience tells us that it’s emotionally threatening and the perceived risk activates the same brain regions that physical pain does.
Or maybe we don’t feel like we need input.
Some of us don’t ask for help or input because we think we don’t need it. That we have all the answers. Maybe we’re overconfident in our own knowledge and think that there’s not a lot of value to be had or that we’ll be bored by the responses.
Which kind of misses the point.
Generous feedback isn’t about the person competing with your intellectual expertise on a subject; it’s simply asking another person if they can see something you don’t. Generous feedback shines a light in another space and says . . Hey, did you see this? or Hey, what if you thought about X or Y?
The reality is that many of us are pretty bad at asking for & giving feedback. Which is a big missed opportunity. If we’re looking to create change, we need the insight and ideas of others. Whether it’s a cross functional team, an agile project management group or a hierarchy-minimizing structure, we need the collaboration and push from others.
Sometimes just having the language to springboard into a behaviour can change the way we interact. Instead of asking for “feedback” when we present something; what if we focused on asking a few really good questions. And remember like everything, the language we use matters.
If we don’t ask for generous feedback from others, we miss out on the chance to unlock real value. Good questions spur learning and the exchange of ideas, which in turn fuels innovation and improved performance at every level.
ASKING | Next time you present something to your team, try asking one of the following questions. Don’t react or respond, just listen. Even better, write it down . . that way you’re processing the input whilst also signaling to the person that you’re holding space for them to contribute generously.
From where you’re standing, what do you guys see that I don’t?
Could you tell me honestly what concerns or excites you about this?
Where do you see the risk here?
Could you tell me a little bit more about your reaction to this?
GIVING | When one of your team has presented a new idea or a project, try changing your posture from one of expertise to one of generosity. When someone asks you for generous feedback, think carefully about how you answer. This bit is all about practicing the posture of generous contribution to another person. It’s not about you looking smart, it’s not about you showing them up, it’s simply about you shining a light somewhere on something that maybe they hadn’t thought to look at. And if you can ‘prompt’ them by asking a thoughtful provocative question back [rather than downloading your smarts], then all the better. Try these questions on for size.
If you do this . . What does this look like, when it’s working ? And how is that different to what it looks like now?
Can you tell us why this is so important? What’s the real work to be done here as you see it?
What might this mean for the future? Is this part of a longer strategic play for us?’ Where might it deliver the most value?
What’s the unknowable element [or the constraint] in this work for you? How will you use that constraint to pivot or to overcome it?
What problems haven’t you been able to solve as yet?
Is there somewhere this challenge has already been addressed where you could steal some insights or examples?
What do you need from us? What would be helpful for you?
ACCEPTING | When you get generous feedback, how will you respond? Note your instant response to the feedback. Remember, you don’t have to take it all, you only need to listen. But what if . . you just tried it on for size for a moment. After all . . is it more important to learn and create real change with your team, or be right?
If you imagined the feedback to be true, how would that change things?
If you had known this feedback before or during the process / task / project . . . . what would you have done differently?
You can’t be curious and annoyed / defensive at the same time. Put any negativity aside and ask yourself . . . where is the opportunity for change here?
What did this person see . . that you didn’t?
And one last prompt; what if . . we asked ourselves these questions before we came into our meetings.
Is my feedback generous? How will I make sure that my feedback “turns a light on” for the person asking?
How will I show up in a way that brings out the best in others?
Here’s some good tips on feedback from @sethgodin.
The first rule of great feedback is this: No one cares about your opinion.
What I want instead of your opinion is your analysis. Analysis is a lot harder than opinion because everyone is entitled to his or her own taste (regardless of how skewed it might be). A faulty analysis, however, is easy to dismantle. But even though it’s scary to contribute your analysis to a colleague’s proposal, it’s still absolutely necessary.
The second rule? Say the right thing at the right time.
If you’re asked to comment on a first-draft proposal that will eventually wind its way to the chairman’s office, this is not the time to point out that “alot” is two words, not one. Copyediting the document is best done just once, at the end, by a professional. While it may feel as if you’re contributing something by making comments about currently trivial details, you’re not. Instead, try to figure out what sort of feedback will have the most positive effect on the final outcome, and contribute it now.
The third rule? If you have something nice to say, please say it.
Pointing out the parts you liked best is much more than sugarcoating. Doing so serves several purposes. First, it puts you on the same side of the table as me, making it more likely that your constructive criticism will actually be implemented. If you can start by seeing the project through my eyes, you’re more likely to analyze (there’s that word again) the situation in a way that helps me reach my goals.
If I haven’t intimidated you with my other rules, here’s the last one: Give me feedback, no matter what.
It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid your analysis might be a little shaky. It doesn’t matter if you’re the least powerful person in the room. What matters is that you’re smart; you understand something about the organization, the industry, and the market; and your analysis (at the very least) could be the kernel of an idea that starts me down a totally different path.