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The Power of Asking for Feedback
By Susanne Madsen

Asking for feedback is one of the most powerful tools on your road to personal and professional growth and it’s an excellent way to strengthen trust and relationships on the projects you are leading. The people you work with can see you from all angles, but without the use of a mirror you can only see a limited part of yourself. Without feedback it can be hard to ascertain – not just how you look – but also what effect your leadership style has on others. You can pick some of this up by observing people’s body language and how they react to you, but you will get a much better understanding by asking them directly.

Many people shy away from asking for feedback because they are afraid what they will be told, but we are much better off knowing than not knowing. At least we can then do something about it. Besides, when you ask other people about their opinion, they are likely to also tell you about something you do really well that you were not aware of. Feedback highlights your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

Who shall I ask?

When you ask for feedback, choose people whose opinion you respect and admire. If you ask people who you don’t respect, you are unlikely to take their comments on board. Look around you. Who are those people that are doing a great job and who would have a view on your performance and how you come across? Don’t limit yourself to the people you work for directly. Great insight can be gained from also asking your team, clients and peers for feedback. If you feel uncomfortable, start with a person you trust and who has your best interests at heart. You may come away feeling enlightened and positive.

What questions shall I ask?

The simplest way to request feedback is to ask the following three questions:

  1. What should I stop doing?
  2. What should I start doing?

  3. What should I continue to do?

When you ask these three questions you give people a chance to balance their feedback between positive and less positive aspects. It means that they can highlight the things you do really well along with areas where there is room for improvement.

What shall I do with the feedback?

As with everything, make up your own mind about the feedback you receive. Apply your own wisdom and decide which aspects to seriously take on board and which to leave behind. Pick out one or two themes that are mentioned by more than one person and that you know there is some truth to. Then make a decision to work on these – on your own or with the help from a mentor or coach.

How does this help me to build trust?

When you ask your team and clients for feedback it instantly opens up the relationship because you show that you care and that you are humble enough to ask for their opinion. Just imagine how a team member might react if you asked them how you come across as a manager and how they feel that you could better support them in their work.

In similar way you can build instant trust between you and a stakeholder by asking for comments about you and the project you are leading. You might say “I would like to ask your opinion about the project and my role on it. I value your view on how we can work more effectively and deliver a better service to you. Do you feel that you are receiving sufficient information about the project and in a way you would like it? Are there any aspects about the project you feel we have overlooked? Which suggestions do you have for how my team and I can improve?”

Can you see how asking these questions can immediately strengthen trust between you and your client? Can you see that asking for feedback is imperative for your growth as a project manager?

Susanne Madsen is a project & program manager, mentor & coach, and author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook. She has over 15 years experience in managing and rolling out large change programs. You can read more from Susanne on her blog.

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