I am a huge proponent of feedback. It’s what you need to improve your performance. You have to know how you’re doing and where you can improve. I love the Ken Blanchard quote that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Unfortunately, organizational life is often starving for feedback. And when you do get it, it’s not really the right kind anyway. It’s usually just that annual review where everyone is jockeying for position and trying to get on some “high potential” list.
It’s not all that effective.
But if you want to improve—if you want to grow—then you want to make sure that you are continuously improving your performance by getting feedback more frequently. A number of years ago, I developed a simple trick for getting that feedback. And by developed, I mean stole and adapted. I’ve just forgotten where I stole it from. I was unsatisfied with the semi-annual cycle of teaching a whole class and only after the term was over, getting student feedback from the course. So mid-way through the semester I took a class session and handed each student a piece of paper with 3 simple questions on it.
What is something that I’m not doing that you wish I would start doing?
What is something that I’m doing that you wish I would stop doing?
What is something that I’m doing that is really working and that you hope I continue?
Start. Stop. Continue.
The real power of these questions isn’t any one individual answer. It’s that because the survey is so small and simple, you can ask lots of people and compile their answers. That gives you the total picture of what your strengths are (continue) and what your weaknesses are (stop) and where your blind spots are (start). Overtime, I’ve also learned that it works best if you have a friend or a colleague actually collect the responses so that he or she can compile the feedback and make it anonymous. If people want to identify themselves, then they can, but you get more truthful answers when people know you won’t hold those answers against them.
The other powerful dimension of these simple questions is that you can do it often. Because it’s just three questions. I recommend asking once a quarter or even once a month. Especially if your workplace has a regular cycle for performance appraisals. Ask these questions at the midpoint between to appraisals. You’ll receive feedback on a much more frequent cycle and can make adjustments to your performance in real time.
Start, stop, continue. It’s simple, it’s easy, go start asking.