Most Managers Don’t Volunteer Performance Feedback; You Have To Ask Tor It.
Most managers won’t address an issue even if it’s just something small for fear of how you might react. So that means that most of us aren’t receiving information about what is working and what needs more attention.
One-on-One meetings are regularly scheduled meetings where you and your boss meet for about 20 - 30 minutes. If you don't have one-on-one meetings with your manager then ask. What do most managers and employees talk about in one-on-one meetings? What’s coming up, problems at work, status updates and maybe small talk like “have you seen any good movies”? You might hear a “How’s it going?” from your manager to which you’d likely answer, “everything is good”. That’s not good enough. What you need is actionable performance feedback you can learn from and act upon. Learn what you do well and should continue with and find out what needs more attention. When do you need this information? On a just-right-for-you basis and certainly well before the performance review.
Timing for Feedback
Most performance reviews are conducted once yearly. How many months of performance can you and your manager clearly recall? Twelve? Highly unlikely unless you both possess savant characteristics. Most people say they can clearly recall about one months’ worth of performance. I even question that as I can’t even remember what I had for dinner two days ago. So how often should performance conversations occur? As a best practice, performance feedback conversations should occur at least once monthly.
How much feedback is enough and how often feedback happens depends on you. If you’re new to a job then I’d suggest seeking out feedback at least once a week. If you’re a more seasoned employee then I’d suggest once a month and no less than once per quarter (and that’s pushing it). If your company is downsizing then I’d make sure that I’m very quickly aware of any blind spots. That way I can bring my performance up a notch or two.
Questions to Ask
The questions we ask determine the quality of feedback we receive.
Not So Good Questions
Asking questions like the ones in the example below will only garner generalized responses:
"How am I doing?" "You’re doing great."
"What can I do better?" "I can’t think of anything."
"What should I stop doing?" "Stop interrupting me in meetings." Personally I don’t like the “what should I stop doing” question because it invites criticism.
"What did you think of my presentation?" "It was really good."
Effective Questions to Ask When Seeking Performance Feedback
Ask about the one-thing. For some reason asking someone to tell you the “one-thing” makes it easier for the feedback provider to hone in on the most important piece of information. Here are some examples:
"In the meeting, was there one thing I said or did that helped position our services?" "When you said…"
"What’s one thing I could do for the next meeting to make it even better?" "I’d let the customer first tell us about…and then we can… "
"What one element of that report that worked?" "When you gave the background about..."
"What’s one thing that would make the next report even better?" "I’d suggest adding some background information about____ first, just to give some context, and then introduce the numbers."
"What’s one thing I could do to work better with you?"
"What’s one way I could support you more?"
Going after regular performance feedback versus waiting for someone to give it is key to managing our careers and professional development. It’s about learning and applying, learning and applying, learning and applying. Wash rinse repeat.