Want Feedback? Ask for it!

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

McMaster University’s Occupational Therapy program was very much grounded in the concept of feedback.  While sometimes contrived, and definitely awkward, giving and receiving feedback is an essential skill in relationships, parenting, work and school.

Recently I was in one of my MBA classes and the professor circulated feedback forms to the class asking for our input on how the course was going.  In my many years of university, I have never had a professor ask for feedback during the course.  Usually the instructor evaluation forms are circulated at the end, when a) the feedback does not directly benefit the people that provide it (the class is over anyway), and b) the students never know if their feedback has value or elicits change.

In the case of this particular class, the professor, at the start of the following lecture, summarized the feedback he received.  He commented on what people liked and did not like about the class so far and told us how he was going to adjust his sails to meet the needs of his audience.  Brilliant.

Reflecting on this reminded me of the recent times when I have asked for feedback and benefited from the outcome.  At home, we engaged in a Stop, Start, Continue exercise with our four daughters.  We all had six pieces of paper with our own, and each other’s, names at the top.  Our job was to comment on what we felt that we each needed to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing in our own mind, and then also for each other.  Basically, we were giving and receiving feedback on our skills as mom, dad, daughter or sister.  The result was amazing.  The kids took the exercise seriously and we all learned more about ourselves through the eyes of the people closest to us.   It was a valuable exercise for them and us, and something we will continue to do going forward.

At work, I also asked for feedback from colleagues, clients and customers.  I circulated a questionnaire via email that allowed people to anonymously let me know how I was performing in my job.  Then, I also engaged in a self-initiated 360 review that provided those closest to me the opportunity to highlight, from their perspective, my personal strengths and weaknesses.

Why is feedback so important to me?  I am not as much interested in ensuring I am living up to the expectations of others, as I am interested in ensuring I am not naïve to my own faults.  It is always easier to see the faults in others and yet how often do we really reflect on our own skills?  I believe that the path to achieving my personal best involves understanding myself through my eyes and the eyes of those around me.  So, if you want feedback, just ask for it!   How is my blog by the way?