5 min read

Tell me, how can I improve?

Tell me, how can I improve?
Photo by Emily Morter / Unsplash

Catchy title. But with the topic I'm going to touch upon this time, it can be a tricky subject. With some pitfalls. The topic of today: How to gather feedback at work. I did say, tricky. I did say it would be tricky. Nonetheless, let me share my current process when it comes to one. And at the end, will share my own small "framework" developed over the years.

There are a number of names for this subject known in the corporate world. With new "definition" coming almost as fast as the JS framework of the day. Ok, ok, getting old with this one. You may know it as 360 feedback, performance review, catchup, 1:1, etc. The frequency and form of it also are defined by the place you work at. With base knowledge there, let us try to determine why it is there. And what benefit it serves.

A number of people that know me heard the following at one point or the other: We all come with small print next to the personalities we project to the world. This can unconsciously influence our personas and views of the world. That is why I am asking for feedback to keep in check and improve things I'm not even aware of.

The point of having regular feedback, at least for me, is to reflect on the previous period within the team/chapter/company. Both personally and professionally. There is a number of factors you can include in your questionnaire. I am not gonna do a compiled list of possible of questions here. The search engine of your choice will provide a number of examples. That you can refine to suit your own needs. Back to the subject. Here I would recommend a good mix of both professionally and technically oriented questions. Especially when you're starting out in the industry. The "wiser" you get, the compound effect of previous inputs will refine the list and narrow the areas of focus.

As mentioned, the compound effect here plays a major role. With every new review, you will be refining your questions. While at the same time, developing a solid picture of yourself. And what you project to the world outside. As you're working through the points from your feedback, it is natural that feedback should change as well. Otherwise, what is the point of doing it? If it is just to tick that "what manager asked of me" box, then it loses the point. And you lose a valuable insights that may help you get over that hurdle that you may be stuck in.

As an example: If you have a tendency to focus on a problem at hand, you may be brisk in some conversations or answers when "interrupted" during this deep focus time. To some, this can be rude, cold, or hostile. After being made aware of this, you can try being more friendlier when your pomodoro time is interrupted. Will you be able to apply it in every situation, you will find out. It is a process, as I still get that feedback from time to time. Mostly from newer colleagues, where we're still reading that small print about each other.

What is important is that you will be starting to be conscious of your actions. And behavior. Improving along the way, one small step at a time. We all need to start somewhere. In the example above this can be just by simply having a chat with the team and creating a way to signal your focus time, in form of status on the communication of choice or wearing a silly hat. A simple solution that will help everyone involved and lead to situations that can be easily avoided.

Ok, now on how this way you can help yourself in your career. Here we get how this can help you make progress in asking for that promotion. Or just plain simple asking for a raise. The points you gathered can be used to solidify your contributions in the previous periods. They can also help you identify where you need to work on when that dreadful question comes: And what do you think it could have gone better? Or some variation of it. You get the point. You will be prepared with some talking points. Next to that, it will help you by just providing a mirror to see how're you improving and to even be an ego boost.

Now that we established some of the views I have on the subject, let me present the "framework" I am using:

  1. Frequency: If I'm at a new company, I start with doing feedback every 3 months. After a period of time, usually after the first year or two, I reduce this to every 6 months. With infrequent check-ins with people (like 1:1) in shorter durations.
  2. Focus group: I usually ask at least 3-5 people in each round. And every next round is a new group of people. From not just your team, but also broader audience. Anyone you have worked with and can/wants to provide feedback. This eliminates the friendship bias that can develop. Nothing bad with it, but if you wanna learn more there is an interesting book from business domain that gives nice insights on this. And the entire subject as well, to be honest. It is The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you.
  3. Data processing: Data collected now is gonna be accumulated and each category reviewed to identify "common" traits. That is why I ask a larger group of people, so I can establish the difference between personal feedback and observed behavior. What I mean here: If I hear a certain subject once, it is coming from the personal view of the giver. Doesn't mean it should be ignored, it means it needs to be addressed with the giver in more detail. If I hear it for a second time, something to note down and pay attention to in the coming period. Any additional feedback on the same topic, there is something to be worked on.
  4. Follow-up: If based on the collected feedback you need some additional clarification or input, I always ask for a short meeting afterward. Discuss the subject from the feedback if not clear and ask for more input on it. This way you make a full circle and also show that you care (as you should) about their time invested in you. To give you valuable feedback so you can get better. This is a small token of appreciation that will go long way in the future.

Ok, with the closing of this topic, let me point out here that I was not focusing on what means to give good feedback. Or at least what I consider to be so. This was just a way to establish why to do it. And how I do it, with a refined "framework" to make it beneficial. Instead of just something "you need to do". In the coming post, I will be focusing on what I find good feedback and how to provide one.

Till next time, looking forward to feedback on this small write-up.