A performance appraisal is a complicated interaction between a manager and an employee. Employees can be fearful of negative feedback that could stunt their potential career advancement, and even result in a job loss, while managers feel wary of having to perform the juggling act of simultaneously encouraging, critiquing, motivating, and assessing their employees all in one brief meeting. As a result, the event can be as anticipated as a trip to the dentist.
Ask for Feedback. And Ask Often.
In a recent blog post, leadership expert Joe Folkman writes about a study he conducted which, “showed an exceptionally strong correlation between asking for feedback and the overall effectiveness of a leader.”
As the above chart above clearly indicates, the people who are the most effective at their jobs are the ones that are constantly asking their bosses, their colleagues, their employees, and their clients, “How am I doing? How can I do better?”
Success Through Constructive Criticism
In fact, top-tier talent are so programmed to solicit feedback that it can be problematic from a managerial perspective. In “Why Mentoring Matters in a Hypercompetitive World,” the authors use an incident at Morgan Stanley as a case example.
“Six high-performing A players were taking up to 50% of [their manager’s] time with various capital and human resource requests, inquiries about promotions decisions, and the like – in short, the high fliers demanded constant attention. At least half the direct reports, though, never initiated contact with the division head.”
Workers who ask for constant feedback, not only receive enormous benefits from continually fine-tuning their core competencies, but they are also building an engaged relationship with their managers.
We Receive What We Ask For
Though constantly soliciting input from managers and colleagues may seem daunting, Folkman argues that the very act of requesting feedback changes the dynamic of the interaction into something better than if the critique was unsolicited. Folkman writes:
Often when others give us unsolicited feedback our defenses automatically are raised. We debate, rationalize, react and then finally reject the feedback. When a person sincerely asks another person for feedback most of the time that person proving the feedback tries very hard to provide their honest perspective. [When] both people have shared interest in the outcome, positive things happen.
Ignored Problems Won’t Go Away. They’ll Get Worse.
Often those that think they are underperforming are the most reticent to ask for feedback because they know it will be negative. However, delaying this input only worsens the problem. If the feedback is negative, it is better to know as quickly as possible in order to work towards remedying the situation. More importantly, by taking the initiative in asking for feedback, a worker is already signaling that they have an interest in both acknowledging and fixing what isn’t working. That is an attitude that puts both boss and employee in the position of collaborating together to repair the problem.