Asking for feedback to grow your career

You need to be more strategic.

The work you did on that project was great.

I question if you are engaged.

Keep doing what you are doing.

Have you ever gotten feedback like this? Constructive feedback that isn’t action oriented or specific. Positive feedback that is underwhelming and not motivating.

It’s performance review time for a lot of people, and often these conversations can be more harmful than helpful. So if you receive feedback that isn’t enough to drive performance, here are a couple of tips on how to ask your manager for more details to help you grow in your career. The stories below are real, the names are just changed to protect the innocent (and not so innocent! 🫣) 

1) Ask for examples – this can be helpful for both a better understanding of work that was done and what was expected. One year, Sally received that classic “you need to be more strategic” feedback. When there wasn’t an example given of past behaviors when she wasn’t “strategic”, she asked instead of an example of what that would look like in the future. Turns out it was about influencing her client to think about new ways of working versus just implementing the projects given. That was something she could actually work on and identify ways to change her behavior.

2) Share your career goals and how this feedback applies to them – do more of the same, you are great, everyone likes you – these only get you so far. It feels good for a minute but doesn’t accelerate your growth or give you actionable things to build on for the future. Sometimes it can be helpful share your own goals and help guide your manager to giving you more impactful feedback. When Jack got this kind of vanilla feedback, he shared that he was looking to move into a manager role and was curious how the good work he was doing today could be leveraged as a leader in the future. This question pushed the manager to speak more specifically about the strong technical skills he had, that frankly others on the team didn’t have. He walked away with a development opportunity to mentor others on the team, which is a great skill for a future manager.

3) Follow up to get more insight – often a manager struggles to give more detail because they aren’t as close to your work. When Becky’s manager gave her feedback that included “your work wasn’t what we were expecting on that last project”, there wasn’t any data, examples or specifics about what that meant. She asked for examples, the manager didn’t have any. She shared what she thought her role and goals were for the project, the manager couldn’t disagree. She finally got the manager to share that he was repeating feedback he heard from another team member. She asked if he could go back to that team member and either get more details or if they would be comfortable with her reaching out directly to ask for more feedback. She reiterated that she was open to hearing it, she just need to better understand it so she could adjust accordingly

Bonus for managers: Focus on Impact. One of the themes in the above examples is the not sharing enough about the impact someone’s work has. Know what motivates them and help your team succeed.

1) Instead of saying “great job” – share that because of their strong communication, follow up and relationship building, clients want to keep working with us.

2) Instead of saying “the team loves you” – bridge the gap their work into your company values and how they are role modeling the company culture for others to see.

3) Tie the good work into the promotion they are looking for or the big project they want to be assigned to – “This is the kind of work and skills we look for in…”.

Looking for more tips? Check out our recent podcast about preparing for performance reviews and feedback and you can buy Karen’s book, “Setting the Stage: A Guide for Any Feedback Conversation” on Amazon.