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Three Secrets to Requesting Feedback

Posted by on February 8th, 2013 with 0 Comments

Are you a god?

If you think the answer is yes, please keep it to yourself.
If you’re leaning towards ‘no’, then you’re probably aware that your human status limits the number of activities you can successfully participate in.

  • You probably cannot fly. Even if you can, you should not get too close to the sun.
  • You probably cannot bring the dead back to life. If you can, bring back “My Name is Earl“!! I need closure.
  • You probably cannot turn water into wine. Bummer.
  • You probably cannot control the weather. No, the air conditioning remote does not count.
  • You probably cannot part a sea. I keep waiting for the “Dummies Guide…” for that. This is a sign that we’re getting pretty close.
Here’s another activity that Anton Chekhov thinks you might not be successful at:

To judge between good or bad, between successful and unsuccessful would take the eye of god.
– Anton Chekhov

Judging, evaluating, giving feedback: it is a god’s task. That’s why we should tread very lightly when we engage in it.

Here are three secrets to requesting feedback:

  1. Be very specific about the feedback you want.
  2. Tell the evaluator what you’re working on.
  3. Ask how it’s working for them.

DON’T ask, “How was my presentation”?

First, this is not specific. It presents the evaluator with too many choices. Do I tell you about your voice? Your hair? Your slides? Your pace? All of the above? None of the above?
Often, I’m so overwhelmed that I’m forced to respond, “Fine”, which is useless.

Second, I don’t know what you’re working on, so the odds are that I’ll give irrelevant feedback.
And if you’re not working on something? Don’t ask for my feedback. On the other hand, you should always be working on something…

Finally, this question doesn’t ask how it’s working for me. I’m not a god. I’m not even a presentation ‘expert’. By asking how it worked for me, a) I can be honest and b) you can choose to not act on my feedback.

I cannot be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when I tell you how it worked for me.
That’s liberating for both of us.

DO ask, “Today, I tried some new slides in my presentation. Instead of overwhelming the audience with data, I’m trying to use visuals to make an emotional impact. How did that work for you?”

Now I can respond directly, honestly, and – most important – productively.
Ask this question to 10 people, and I guarantee you’ll have useful feedback.

You can use this same formula when someone asks you for feedback.

You: “How was my presentation?”

Me: “What were you working on?”

You: “Huh?”

Me: “What part are you concerned about?”

You: “Oh. I changed the order of my slides from chronological to order of importance. I thought it was a better way to get the audiences attention.”

Me: “Interesting. How do you think it went?”

You: “It flowed better. The executives seemed to lose interest at the end, though.”

Me: “I agree. What would you do different?”

You: “Maybe just cut the presentation shorter…”

Me: “That could work… what I would have liked, personally, is to see you add back your timeline at the end to show how much progress you’ve made. That might be a strong closing. But ask others for their input.”

You: “Thanks.”

Pain-free feedback from a mere human. It’s possible.

Now about parting that sea of red tape…

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. Identify an area where you would like to receive feedback.
  2. Get very specific about the area you’re focusing on
  3. Identify your evaluator(s)
  4. Write a script and practice it three times
  5. Ask for the feedback

Share your results below.

 

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