Accepting (And Maybe Even Seeking Out) Honest Feedback

by Ryan Nitz, Head Editor, INALJ Alaska

Accepting (And Maybe Even Seeking Out) Honest Feedback

ryan.nitzIn my last blog post, “Job Hunter, Know Thyself,” I wrote about the MBTI personality inventory and how understanding your own personality a little better could be valuable in helping to identify opportunities that may represent a more natural fit than others. Well, there’s another very valuable tool for learning about yourself and identifying your strengths and areas in which you could improve: soliciting and/or accepting honest feedback.

Before moving on, it’s important to note that we’re not just talking about any feedback at all, but honest feedback. Feedback that only praises and ignores shortcomings or problems, or feedback that is mean-spirited or deliberately only negative, is generally useless. In order to help identify issues on which we can work to facilitate real, positive change, we need real, honest information.

I recently participated in a panel discussion as part of some leadership training. The main topic of that panel discussion was work performance and performance management. One of the questions asked of the panelists was something along the lines of, What was one of the most valuable and motivating experiences you’ve had during your career? Without exception, each of the panelists described a situation in which they either sought out or simply chose to hear and accept honest feedback from someone who could offer a perspective that differed from their own. Digesting that feedback and applying the lessons learned from it to a particular situation or their work in general resulted in improvements that the panelists hadn’t previously imagined or anticipated.

We all have people in our work or personal (or, more likely, work AND personal) lives who are perfectly willing (maybe even anxious?) to provide us with honest feedback on practically anything, any time. It probably wouldn’t take a whole lot of prodding to get the perspective of one or more of these willing participants. You may even end up getting more information than you asked for, but knowing who these free-flowing founts of feedback are and having the ability to check in with them periodically is an asset, so it’s likely an investment worth making.

If you don’t feel like poking one of the feedback bears discussed above, another option is to identify someone whose ideas or perspective you respect and regularly find valuable, and approach that individual with a solicitation for feedback. It may be that this person understands the value of honest feedback, and goes through the process of seeking it out themselves from time to time.

One of the great things about perspective is that everybody has one. This means that you don’t need to worry too much about soliciting feedback only from, say, supervisors, or people older or with more experience than you. Honest feedback from anywhere has value.

The process of hearing other peoples’ perspectives on you or the situations you find yourself in, and then digesting that information and applying the lessons learned, will almost certainly be beneficial. It may not be comfortable or necessarily enjoyable, but it will net you valuable insight that can help you step up your game at work or in many areas of the job-hunting process (I’m thinking of interviewing and composing cover letters, especially).