“You’re doing a great job!” “Nice work!” It’s certainly great to hear praise like this from your boss, but it’s not particularly helpful. I have heard a common theme from many of my clients. They believe they are highly regarded. They have been promoted, rated highly on performance reviews, and received nice bonuses. All signs point to a job well done. However, when I ask them what kind of feedback they have heard for improvement, they have nothing to share. “My boss is really great, and we get along really well,” they say, but she’s not the type to give negative feedback.”

It’s great to get along well with your boss and to “know” that you are doing a great job. But we all have room to grow and improve, if only someone is willing to share their observations and recommendations with us. So, if you have a boss who seems uncomfortable giving you feedback for development, there are a few things you can do to seek out and encourage feedback:

  • Request time to talk solely about your performance
  • When you complete a project or task, schedule a debrief or “post mortem” to discuss what went well and what could have been done differently
  • Begin with a self-assessment by sharing your own perspectives of what you are doing well and where you would like to improve
  • Ask for one thing you could do differently or what you could for your boss that would make their life and job easier

And as you receive feedback, remember the ASK FOR IT acronym:

  • Assume it’s accurate – it doesn’t help to argue or disagree – their perception is their truth – it’s true for them even if it doesn’t ring true/make sense to you
  • Seek different perspectives – get more and more information from others – especially if it doesn’t make sense or ring true to you
  • Keep yourself open – don’t defend yourself or justify your actions/behavior (or they’ll never offer you feedback again)
  • Free yourself to hear and take actions – help yourself be there, listen, take it in, and be willing to do what needs to be done
  • Open the door – ask open ended questions to further clarify what they’re saying
  • Respond cautiously – take time and think before you act on feedback – just because someone said it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do something about it
  • Inquire for understanding – even if you think you understand what they said and what they meant, ask open-ended questions to make certain you have the same meaning as they do, and especially if you think their feedback is “off”, dig deeper with questions such as: “help me to understand why you think that?”
  • Thank them – feedback is a gift and they are taking a risk in sharing with you

For many of us, giving criticism or constructive feedback is uncomfortable. Yet, we all want to know how we are doing and what we can do to improve our skills and performance. Finding ways to openly encourage feedback and openly hear it will help you to grow and develop.

What have you done to get feedback from a reluctant boss?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For coaching around managing up and getting effective feedback, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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