Monday, May 20, 2019

Asking others for Honest Opinions/Feedback

I just wrote an email asking for feedback from my co-workers, and it got me thinking how I even started that practice - which in turn also led me to think of past bosses I have had and how they have shaped who I am today, professionally.

I can name several of my past bosses by name, easily, even though it has been a span of more than two decades. A lot of people or situations come up where you have a negative experience, and that is why you remember someone. In my case, thankfully, its due to an overwhelmingly positive experience with them. From personal touches, to handling difficult situations in a way that showed strength and compassion, to bolstering me technically, I have been truly honored to have worked for some incredible people. Whenever the topic of mentoring comes up, my first thought is normally - look at your boss! :)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: asking for feedback. At my most recent past employer, the CIO tasked everyone in the IT department to ask their customers for feedback. From that assignment, I don't know how many of my co-workers actually followed through, but I did. I wrote a beautiful email (if I do say so myself). When I went to hit send, I found it very humbling, and it was hard to actually hit the send button. After all, I poured my heart and soul into the email and I felt I would get a lot of negative feedback (I was stuck in a bad position at the time). To my surprise, no-one in my immediate circle of co-workers responded at all. I did receive 2 replies from a couple of others in IT, both positive, and 2 others who just responded that it was a great email (and they asked permission to use part of it in theirs).

I will admit, I felt quite a bit let down. I was whole-heartedly wanting feedback in order to improve things within myself. While I know in my head that there are a lot of people who say they want to improve themselves, but in reality don't, in my heart it was hard to reconcile that.

Now, when I ask for feedback, I reflect on how the tone of my email was back then, and what I want to say now.  To me, they feel totally different.  When I re-read the first one, back in 2014, I can still feel the pressure I was under, how I really wanted to live up to other's expectations, and truly help every way I could.  Now, I still put that pressure on myself, but I also realize I have to set the expectations myself and live up to them for myself (although that is sometimes easier said than done).

I am including a pdf of the email I first sent to my co-workers back in 2014, and the one I sent this year. Feel free to use part of it, or all of it, if you would like to. I am very glad that the CIO, my boss at the time, wanted me to do this exercise. It has helped me more than I realized even at the time.  I still dread hitting the send button, but am very glad when I do. It feels good to know I am moving forward in my professional life, and I can re-read the email I send for inspiration when I am down.

I challenge you to draft an email, humbly asking for feedback, and providing an insight into what you see as your challenges. Hopefully you will get a response and learn something about yourself. :)

 

CLICK HERE for my feedback emails

 

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