As an entrepreneur or someone who’s their own boss, it can be easy to fall into a hole where you have no idea if you’re doing well or doing poorly. Asking for honest feedback can seem daunting.
First, are you ready to hear what people have to say, good or bad? And second, who do you even ask!?
There’s probably a bunch of people in your professional and personal life you can tap for feedback, and getting feedback can be an invaluable tool for your development as a business owner. We’ll talk about who to ask, what to ask, and what to do with the feedback once you get it.
Ask a variety of people -- including yourself
Asking your friends what they think about you won’t really help you grow as a manager, businessperson, or client-facing entrepreneur. Instead, ask the people you directly work with. To grow as a business owner, you want to know how to make changes to the areas you work in. Ask your clients AND the people you network with, such as vendors, partners and employees.
By asking a variety of people, you’ll get feedback on a bunch of different facets of your personality as well as your business. How do clients feel about your communication skills? How do your employees feel about your management skills? How do your partners and vendors feel about working with you? Are you approachable and reliable? This will ensure your feedback is well rounded.
Pick the right medium
Asking people via an anonymous survey may seem appealing and the best way to get brutally honest feedback, but surveys are tough because it’s hard to get the full story in the right context when you’re asking limiting questions. Instead, talk to them, formal reviews, informal reviews, or even leave room at the end of a quarterly business review or performance review to ask about how they feel about you.
Another good strategy to getting feedback that is actually actionable and valuable is to prepare people for the question in advance.
Here are a few ways to ask people for feedback:
· “Hey, when we meet next week, I wanted to get feedback from you on my management style. Can you prepare a few critiques and positives?”
· “I was hoping to get some feedback from you about what it’s like working with me. Can I take you for coffee/send you a survey to pick your brain?”
· “Would it be okay to schedule a touch base to go over my professional development? I’d love to get some feedback.”
Allowing people the time to formulate a response will make sure that they’re not only comfortable having the conversation, but also prepared to answer with an educated response. No one likes deep questions being sprung on them!
Be ready for it
Before tapping your network for advice, you have to be mentally prepared for the ego blow that may come with some raw feedback. Try to go through the scenario in your head of how you’ll act if someone says something less-favorable. Responses like “I appreciate your honesty” is great if you need time to think about it, or if you want clarification, use gentle probing questions like, “I’d like to explore that a bit more, can you tell me what you mean by x?” Avoid getting defensive. Just listen, absorb, and absolutely don’t argue. All feedback is good feedback. It's their perception of you and if it doesn't match what you think of yourself, something might have to be adjusted.
Asking the right questions
Asking the right questions is going to be crucial for getting good feedback that you can actually work with. Remember; ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no). Example of a closed ended question: “Do you like working with me” vs. “How do you feel working with me?” If you give someone the chance to say yes or no, chances are they will! Also, give people the chance to give positive feedback and as well as negative feedback. It will make people the most comfortable if they have the chance to say good things along with constructive criticism.
Some good questions to consider asking:
· How do you find I take constructive feedback or direction?
· What is one area you think I excel in? What is one area you think I could work on?
· How would you describe my communication skills?
· If someone asked you what I was like to work with/for, what would you say?
So, you’ve got some good feedback and some not-so-good feedback and now it’s time to do something with it. Take time after each meeting to write down the key areas and then dream up a development plan for yourself. If you had a boss, this is hopefully something they would do with you. Congrats on doing this for yourself! Dedication will be half the battle, so specific plans and goals will help you really grow.
Create short-term and long-term goals to address some of the feedback. Short-term goals, like delegating tasks better or responding to emails quicker can be solved by rethinking your work week and assigning some work to others. Bigger things, like better management skills or public speaking may take a course or a few books. Don’t get down on yourself – you’re doing something most people can’t even face, and that’s admitting you have areas for growth.