Some people have managers who readily offer useful feedback and coaching; many do not. People too often tell us that expectations are unclear and that they don’t know how to ask their manager for what they need to develop. Asking skillfully for feedback is the best way to get information to fuel your growth and development. In this post, I’ll share three recommendations from our team for setting up a successful conversation with your manager about your development.
- Get in the right mindset for the conversation with your manager. The key word here is conversation. Be ready for a two-way dialogue rather than passive receipt of a “report card.” You have the opportunity to lead your manager’s opinion of you AND gather useful input. Avoid the common pitfall of viewing this conversation as an annual “check the box” activity. Instead, see this discussion as a way to hone a career-long and career-defining skill. If you’re feeling nervous, remember that many people feel nervous asking for feedback (and many managers feel nervous giving feedback!).
- Give yourself and your manager lead time. You’re not going to want to go into this conversation cold. It’s much better to give your manager a heads-up. For example, send a note inviting your manager to a conversation to discuss your strengths that you can further use as well as possible blind spots. Scheduling the meeting for an upcoming time (rather than on the spot) will give you both space to reflect and prepare for a good discussion.
- Ask about what’s working and how you can contribute at a higher-level going forward. If you’re not smart in how you ask for feedback, you can unintentionally over-invite critique or feedback that’s not useful. Take time in advance to jot down you want to ask your manager during the meeting. While you won’t follow your prepared questions as a script, the process of writing your questions will clarify what you want to know from your manager. Keep your focus on future actions more than past issues:
- What am I doing that is that you value the most?
- Imagine it’s 6 months from now and you are thrilled with my performance. What will I be doing that I am not already doing?
- Is there anything I am doing now that I don’t need to do or can be delegated?
- In thinking about the organization’s needs, what do your recommend I prioritize in the next 6 months?
You and your manager are both busy and have only 1,440 minutes in a day. Maximize your time together by asking smart questions and listening for constructive nuggets.