Most people know that useful feedback helps us to improve performance, but how can you be sure you are getting high quality feedback that will help you to develop rather than just distract you?
There is a lot more to it than just demanding that your leader give you feedback. The more proactive you are, the easier you will make it for others to give you feedback and the more you will get.
Feedback is most useful if it provides information that is hard for us to obtain through self-assessment, reflection or monitoring.
But quite often, people give feedback that is focused on your motivational state: your intentions, thoughts and feelings. These are all things that are not visible to them and often not that helpful.
What helps the most is if you can try to understand their perceptions of your performance. How does your behaviour appear from their point of view? What is the impact of your behaviour on them?
Now this information is really useful. Here’s why.
If their perception of what you did – or how you performed – is very different from what you intended, then that’s useful to know. We don’t always have the impact on people that we mean to have. Getting feedback enables us to make behavioural adjustments and better align what we intended with the actual impact we have.
External feedback can also alert you to when circumstances or requirements have changed. This is very useful information because it means your performance/behaviour wasn’t necessarily wrong in the first place but something new is now necessary.
And if someone does give you feedback about your internal state (e.g. motivation, attitudes, beliefs etc.), simply ask them for some examples of what led them to perceive you that way. The examples will typically include behaviours and their impact. Asking for these specifics will turn feedback that’s not necessarily very useful into something you can actively work with.