The Habit of Seeking Feedback for Continuous Improvement


  The Habit of Seeking Feedback for Continuous Improvement

If you had your way, we’d all be geniuses. But the truth is that different people have different thought processes and some of us are better at certain tasks than others. In order to make sure that we’re not getting stuck in a rut, it helps to know what other people think about our work and how our ideas can evolve for the better. You never know what new perspective or insight will enable you to take your idea to the next level!

This is why continuous feedback is so important for success. It gives you an opportunity to see things from a different angle, reflect on any weaknesses or strengths of your ideas, and make changes as necessary.

But, this continuous feedback isn’t always easy to come by. If you’ve ever been in a brainstorming meeting, you’ll know that most people prefer to sit around quietly and listen while others are speaking. People don’t like to speak out if they think someone else is already on the right track. They may even pretend that they understand your idea – but then ask you for more details in private. Or, they may offer advice or suggestions that you find completely irrelevant or impractical – even contradictory – to what you were trying to achieve.

The way to get around this, of course, is by asking for feedback. Whether it’s someone in your meeting or a colleague at work, you can always find ways to get the input you need.

However, people often resist providing feedback because they don’t want to sound critical or as if they don’t fully understand your idea or situation. So you have to be sensitive and diplomatic when asking for feedback. You may even need to nudge someone along so that he will offer some constructive criticism instead of just vague general comments and praise. Here are some great ways to do that:

1) Ask questions rather than make statements.
Many people think that questions are a waste of time, but I believe they actually help to get the feedback you need. In situations where you don’t have your script perfect and the other person is hesitant about providing feedback, asking more open-ended questions can break down the wall of silence and make the others feel more comfortable.  For example, rather than asking someone if they think your idea will be a success, you can ask him: What do you think will happen? How will it benefit us? What could we improve on?
You gain more insight this way because it encourages people to speak up without feeling like they're being critical or rude. And you don't need to worry about offending anyone, because you asked a neutral question.
You should also make statements when you're asking for feedback. This gives the other person something to respond to, and it is also an opportunity for you to reaffirm your goal or ideals. For example: I want to provide better service to our customers. What do you think we can do? I've noticed that our product line is too crowded, and it's become too difficult for our team members on the frontline. That means they're spending more time answering questions from new customers about products we no longer carry than helping people find what they want and address their needs. What would you suggest?

2) Ask someone directly .
This is the best way to get feedback, but it can be tricky. You don't want to offend someone by voicing your idea directly before she has finished giving her own opinion. And if you're in a group where everyone might already have an opinion on the subject, it can be hard for the person who just spoke up to know which ideas are worth sharing. So, for this situation, I usually start with a question:  
What do you think we should do?
Once the person starts talking, I'll listen closely and (depending on my style) follow up with questions about his feedback or ask for clarification if I don't understand what he's saying. Sometimes I'll even stop him and ask him to explain in more detail, just to make sure we're on the same page.
This way, I avoid feeling vulnerable or defensive about my ideas because I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket before anyone else has a chance to share. And if someone is being critical or difficult, I can simply use his feedback as the basis for new questions or statements – either of which will move the conversation along and help him feel accepted.

3) Ask someone else . Sometimes you need feedback from someone who wasn't present for your brainstorming session. Or you may need someone outside your organization to give his opinion.
If the person who isn't present is a colleague in your organization, you can either call her or ask someone else for her contact information. If she's a client or customer, you can send an email or call her the next time you meet.
When contacting someone outside of your immediate circle, you'll probably have to be more creative about how you ask for feedback. For example, if you're at a conference or you're in a meeting, you could ask the person sitting next to you: Do you think our product will be successful?
Or if that person happens to have a blog or website, you could ask him to share his opinion on your idea on his blog. If he contacts you directly, I'd recommend following up within 24 hours so that he knows it's important for him and for your organization. If nothing else, this is just polite behavior. If nothing else, this is just polite behavior.
4) Ask a parent . If you're in a family where there are no hard feelings and everyone values your ideas, ask one of the parents to give you feedback. She might be able to help you see things from a different angle, or offer some advice that you would never have thought about yourself. Plus, she'll be thrilled to have an opportunity to help! Just make sure it's okay with both parents before asking for their input. But keep in mind that if someone is very close to you, she may not feel comfortable being critical of your ideas without your prior consent. That's just how it works sometimes.
5) Ask your boss .


While I can't give you a whole lot of advice here on how to ask people for feedback, the key point is that everyone, especially in leadership positions, needs to be actively seeking feedback from others so that they can learn and improve their communication skills.
When you get great feedback on your ideas, it helps you to reinforce your ideals and know exactly why it was a winner. And when other people comment on your presentation or presentation skills, they are obviously more comfortable with you and less intimidated about speaking up.  
But remember the golden rule of asking for feedback: Just ask!
There's no reason not to feel comfortable sharing your idea with others.

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