Last week a colleague paid me an unsolicited, surprising, and helpful compliment. It caught me completely off guard, which got me thinking about giving and receiving feedback.
Feedback is one of the most useful resources for building your brand. In order to talk about what value you bring to a given situation you have to know yourself, as Gary Alan Miller wrote a few weeks ago. Without feedback, we can become trapped in our own minds amidst our own perceptions of our performance and interactions.
Asking for others’ input is tremendously valuable because it can help you recognize areas for improvement you didn’t realize needed work or, conversely, recognize strengths you did not realize you had (“blind spots”).
It can also help you measure progress or put aside fears that you are weak in certain areas – you may be dwelling on perceived weaknesses that others do not see. Nicole Anderson wrote about asking for 360-degree feedback and self-assessment back in May and it’s a great post about why it’s important and how it can help you.
Who and How to Ask
Bottom line – you need to ask people, at all levels and from all aspects of your life, for their feedback. This is often structured or prescribed in the form of supervisor performance reviews, internship learning agreements and check-ins or grades from professors. Get even more value by seeking informal feedback from mentors, peers, fellow interns or co-workers, family and friends. Ask people out to coffee or lunch or send an online request via a site like BetterMe.
Because of the benefits listed above, feedback is a gift. Which means you should be seeking to give as well as receive.
Providing Feedback to Others
Many posts on this blog and others about personal branding or networking encourage readers to be generous and build relationships by helping others. Students I work with are sometimes frustrated by this idea because they are not sure how someone who is “just a student” can help a professional or how they can assist their peers in a unique way. Giving feedback is a way to cross these normal boundaries. Everyone can give feedback regardless of position or status.
When providing feedback to others, there are a few generally accepted tips:
- Make sure the recipient is open to hearing what you have to say
- Be specific. “You did a great job,” is not helpful. State specific skills and use examples and recall specific scenarios to make things more clear.
- Give praise publicly
- Provide constructive feedback privately
- Deliver feedback in a timely manner
- Make sure your intent is to help
- Be open to receiving feedback in response
Giving feedback builds trust, goodwill, and demonstrates maturity – all things you want for your personal brand. It isn’t always easy. In a future post, we’ll look at how to deliver tough feedback or “constructive criticism.”
In the meantime, anyone have any stories to share about feedback you’re received or given? How did it go?
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.