How to ask for feedback

Executive coach Joel Garfinkle quotes Peter Drucker as noting that past ­leaders knew how to tell, while future leaders would know how to ask.

Here’s how Garfinkle advises asking others for feedback on your performance:

√ Schedule it. Your colleague needs to be available. You’ll need a private place. And plan ahead so the person has time to think.

√ Explain what you want. Say, “I need your take on some of my recent decisions,” or “How do I come across to our customers?”

√ Don’t fish for compliments. People will hold back if they doubt you want an honest assessment. Say, “I think I may be interrupting people or coming across as a jerk. How do you think I could improve my style?”

√ Ask for specifics. It helps defuse the tension. If they say you always do something or other, say, “Wow, I didn’t realize I came off that way. I really don’t want to give that impression. Can you think of a situation where I’ve done that recently?”

√ Don’t be defensive. This is the hardest part. It’s so easy to blurt out questions like, “Why do you say that?” or “What does that mean?”

√ Thank them. Be appreciative. And ask for more feedback.

√ Approach others. Ask the same questions and look for patterns.

√ Develop an action plan. If you’ve done this right, you should have actionable material. After you’ve worked on your behavior for a month or two, make the rounds again.

— Adapted from Getting Ahead, Joel A. ­Garfinkle, Wiley.