I strive to never make a wasted mistake.

- Tobi Lütke
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Gracious reader,

Your manager wishes that you frictionlessly knew how to do your job.  Their jobs would be so much easier if they didn't have to give you feedback.

They're human.  Some probably aren't that experienced yet. (If you're in a startup, this could include your CEO.)

So, it can be tough to get someone to provide feedback.  And then, to hear it.  Even when your manager is skilled, it can feel awful.

As we roll into year-end, many of you will be gearing up for performance reviews.  

It's a good time to think about making meaning out of the feedback you receive.
Elicitor General

If you feel like you're not getting feedback, you may have to ask for it.
  • 1:1s with your boss are key.  If your boss is not scheduling regular 1:1s with you, you may need to take initiative.  Look around -- if others in your organization are having 1:1s with their managers, ask your boss for a sit-down.  Bring an agenda, preferably one centered on your immediate goals and priorities.  And a request for feedback.
  • "Do you have any feedback for me? 'That’s a terrible question,' says Heen. 'The answer is almost always no and you learn nothing.' She recommends instead asking, What’s one thing I could improve?How to Get the Feedback You Need, by Carolyn O'Hara at HBR
  • What do you talk about during your one-on-one meetings with your engineering (or other) manager? by Alaina Kafkes elicited some great comments, showing a wide range of practices.  As always, YMMV with Internet commentary:  do check in with your peers, mentors and managers for real life discussion on this important topic.
Still Processing
  • "It's definitely valid to feel sensitive to negative feedback, even when it's useful. So how do you know whether or not the criticism you're receiving is actually constructive?" Check How To Take Constructive Criticism In Stride by Kimberly Truong at Refinery 29.
  • Note-taking is a best practice for 1:1s, for managers and team members. 

    It's especially important when receiving constructive criticism, because emotional reactions might overwhelm other important information.  When feedback feels hard to hear, we might actually not hear!  Take notes. 

    Later on, review your notes.  Be sure that you can articulate any next steps you need to take -- and run them by your manager to be sure that you're on the same page.
Performing Performance Management
  • So it's a good idea to prep for your performance review.  Maybe the review system used in your office is completely useful, and contains all of relevant feedback you've received all year -- and you can access it.  If not, find a couple of good chunks of time to make notes about your accomplishments, and goals for next year.  It's useful to look at last year's review, too.

    If you're new to an organization -- or the workplace -- review the employee handbook.  Then, ask your boss or HR what to expect, and how to prepare.

  • Want to give feedback to your manager?  “General advice on how to be a better boss is tough to give unless you’re asked for it.” The Do/Don't bullet points at the end of How to Give Your Boss Feedback are key. 
Thank you for your feedback!  And several suggestions for movies about work about introductions I asked for last time.  I'll come back to these in a future newsletter.


Anne Libby

P.S.  Did you miss the last newsletter?  Here's a link.
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