You may have heard the claim that millennials need more feedback at work than previous generations. Just Google “millennial feedback at work” and you’ll get a whole host of articles pushing this as fact. But is a desire for feedback really generational?
Getting feedback from your manager is crucial for growth. It’s also an essential part of getting any project across the finish line. But on a fast-paced team, feedback doesn’t always come easy. Most managers and stakeholders have packed calendars, however, and getting input in a timely and efficient manner requires a smart approach.
Here’s how you can get feedback from both managers and stakeholders.
How to get feedback from managers
As a report, your manager should be your first and best source of feedback. Whether you’re concerned about your performance or you want to know how to grow your skills, your manager is best positioned to provide guidance.
But just because your manager has that responsibility doesn’t mean they’re always in a position to provide it. Being smart about how and when you ask for feedback increases your chances of getting the input that you need, when you need it. You have to ask in the right way and do everything you can to make the best use out of their feedback.
Remember that you shouldn’t be nervous or worried about asking your manager for feedback. They want you to improve, and if that means giving you frequent feedback, they’ll usually be happy to do so.
Find the right time to ask
Pro-tip: it’s not when you run into them in the subway. A request for feedback is not something you should ambush your manager with, no matter how friendly your relationship with them. Hopefully, your manager has dedicated time for you to talk about anything you need their input on. If this is the case, make the most of this time with them.
Otherwise, you’ll need to schedule that time yourself. The best way to start that conversation is with a quick email or chat message. Just let them know that you’d like to schedule some time with them to get their feedback on something. Whether it’s your general performance or a specific aspect of your work, make sure you mention it in your message. If you don’t get a reply after the first message, give it a couple of days. Then it’s ok to follow up.
When you ask your manager to meet with you, be ready to frame the conversation. It’s generally good meeting etiquette to let someone know what to expect from a meeting. If you have specific questions to ask, write them down and bring them with you so you won’t forget them. When your manager asks you what you want to talk about, it’s best to be ready to answer.
Know what you need from them ahead of time, and be ready with follow-up questions. Show them you respect their time by being prepared.
If you approach a manager for feedback, you need to take that feedback seriously and commit it to memory. If you ask for their feedback, it’s wise to write it down for later. This is especially the case if your manager gives you action items. Say you were concerned about improving your response time when you’re the engineer on-call. Your manager suggests that you keep a log of every call you’ve answered. Be sure to write that down; they’ll be expecting to see that log the next time you talk about this issue.
Put the feedback into action — and show it!
Feedback that doesn’t prompt action isn’t much good. Even if the feedback is completely positive, it’s better when it comes with actionable next steps. You can talk with your manager about what these next steps should be, but then you have to show that you’re ready to take these steps.
Let’s use our previous example of reducing on-call response time again. If your manager suggests keeping a log of each call’s response time, make sure to follow through. But beyond that, you can check in with your manager from time to time, sharing insights from this log. This will depend on your manager’s management style, but if they’re more hands-on they’ll appreciate the time you take to share these updates with them. It’ll show that you’ve taken their feedback to heart and that you’re working to improve. Then, the next time you ask for their feedback, they’ll know that it’s going to have a measurable impact.
How to get feedback from stakeholders
When you’re dealing with project stakeholders, the feedback process can be a little more complicated. Depending on the project — and your role in the company — a stakeholder might be a colleague, middle management, or even the CEO.
That means getting feedback can require additional tact and planning. But if it’s essential for moving a project forward, you need to learn how to do it right.
Find the right person to ask
Ideally, something like this should be determined before a project starts. If you’ve set a RACI, anyone who falls under Accountable or Consulted might have to give feedback before a project moves on to its next step.
But say this wasn’t determined beforehand. How do you go about finding the right person to ask for feedback? You can start by asking your manager. If you don’t know who the important stakeholders are for a specific project, your manager should be able to find the answer. Otherwise, ask yourself which teams will be most affected by the project you’re working on. Say you’re working on a Help Center article on a software product’s newest feature. Who is responsible for fielding questions about this feature? Who leads the developers who worked on it? Either of these people — or both — can be an important stakeholder to keep in the loop.
If you’re unsure, ask! Send a message to who you think is the right stakeholder, asking them if they’re the right person to give feedback on your project. Odds are if they aren’t, they’ll be able to tell you who is. Just be careful about sending such a message to a CEO or an Executive. Try a couple of rungs down the corporate ladder first.
Remember that stakeholders want to give you feedback. Since they have a stake in your project, they want to see it succeed. So once you find the right person, don’t be worried about asking.
Use the right communication channel
Sometimes, reaching out to a stakeholder can be a bit complicated. Depending on the size of the company, a stakeholder might be across the room, up a few floors, or across the country. Do a bit of research to find the best way to communicate with them.
Often, your organization will have documents or processes in place for reaching certain people. Follow them to the letter. Unless you have a pre-existing relationship with a stakeholder that suggests otherwise, the best way to make sure your request is answered in due time is to send it the way people expect you to.
If these guidelines don’t exist, your safest bet is sending an email. Explain that you need to request feedback on a specific project and ask the stakeholder which method of communication they prefer. They’ll be thankful that you asked and will usually recommend the right communication channel.
Sometimes, feedback won’t go through regular communication channels. This is especially true in more progressive organizations, which are often very forthcoming and open with their feedback. Maybe you’ll interact with stakeholders directly in frequent meetings, in your work management tool, or through a chat application.
Guide stakeholders with specific questions
One of the worst things you can do when asking for feedback is to be vague. If you send over a document without giving a stakeholder any guidelines or expectations, you’ve made the experience more difficult for them. When asking a stakeholder for feedback, make sure you tell them exactly what you need their input on. If you show them your work and only part of it needs approval, make sure you outline that in your message. While it might be nice to get detailed feedback on everything you work on, you might end up waiting longer than necessary without these specifications.
Acknowledge their feedback and thank them
When a stakeholder takes time to give you feedback, make sure to thank them, even if getting that feedback took longer than expected. When your projects depend on input from a certain person, you want to cultivate a good relationship with that person.
If you have additional questions or need extra clarity, ask now or forever hold your peace. Don’t expect a long back-and-forth with stakeholders; they already have plenty on their plate.
By showing gratitude and keeping the interaction brief, you’re showing respect for stakeholders and ensuring they see working with you positively.
Start the feedback loop
No matter who it comes from, feedback is crucial. From your manager, it’s what helps you identify areas where you can improve, tasks you’re excelling at, and more. With stakeholders, feedback can propel a project forward — or stall it if you don’t know how to ask right. But as long as you ask with empathy and respect for their time, you’ll get killer feedback you can put into action in no time.