The idea for this blog came to me on a recent flight from Texas back to the Bay Area.
As we were landing at SFO I was reflecting on the incredible feedback I received when I asked a handful of people to review my new website. All of their feedback was helpful—and super thoughtful.
And then I remembered the simple tool I used to get that feedback: I asked for it!
That got me thinking "Why don't we ask for feedback more often?"
I’ve identified three obstacles that hold us back from asking for input—and three suggestions for overcoming those obstacles.
1) We’re afraid.
This is the big one! When I look at what stands in the way of GSD, fear is one of the top offenders. Fear freezes us in our tracks, it brings forward momentum to a screeching halt, and it blocks us from the possibilities we know exist. Why are we afraid to ask? I’ve heard dozens of reasons, but they all boil down to this: we’re afraid of what others will think of us.
I can encourage you to just “get over it,” but if it were that easy you would have already done it. Try this instead: imagine that the goal is not the response you receive but the practice of asking the question. You’re on a journey to build your resiliency to “just ask.” The journey starts with letting go of your expectations of negative or positive feedback. You are simply asking a question.
2) We aren't sure what to ask for.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we’re in the trenches on a complex project with a lot of moving parts. A great example is my website. I went through my own version of a Gartner Hype Cycle, complete with a Trough of Disillusionment when I felt I needed to scrap everything and start over.
Try this technique: Ask a specific question. (And if you’re in the “trough,” ask a question that can help you get out.) When I asked for feedback on my website I had a specific question: “What’s the one thing about our experience working together that’s missing from the website?” The answers were illuminating. And they helped me climb out of the trough.
3) We may actually have to take action.
Surprised at this obstacle? I’ve heard the following many times: “But Ben, if I ask for feedback I may have to take action.” There’s an element of fear to this obstacle, but because I hear this concern so many times I decided to separate it out.
Try this technique: don’t play the “mental tennis match” in your head. In other words, don’t anticipate the feedback, then plan your response to that feedback, and the other person’s response, etc. Remember, you’re simply asking for feedback.
Asking for feedback requires a level of vulnerability that’s uncomfortable for most of us, even though we’d gladly answer a request from a friend or colleague seeking our feedback. Remember that asking for feedback is a great relationship building technique as it helps us become “a part of.”