The key to your professional success could be feedback from a trusted source.

One of the most sought after qualities in today's workplace is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is all about self-awareness and self-regulation. One of the ways we drive this awareness is by asking for (and applying) feedback.

Getting feedback is a sore spot for most people. Why? “The process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are.”

When you're aware that receiving feedback may strike a tense cord, the best thing you can do for yourself is to properly prepare. By giving some early thought to your intentions, you'll pave a path to your goals much easier than just jumping in and winging it.

Before you do anything…

Before you go and ask for feedback, do an introspective inquiry first. Review your intentions, goals, and any underlying beliefs or assumptions you're carrying along with you. For example, you might think you're killing it in your new job so you go to your new boss and ask for feedback but what you're really asking for is kudos. This is an underlying assumption. You already think you're great and you're looking for recognition and validation. So, if your boss delivers you anything less than a stellar review, your ego will come crashing down (and anger will come flooding in). Giving a good, hard look at your motivations to asking for feedback will go a long way. Ask yourself: what am I looking to hear, what will I do with this feedback, and why do I want feedback. If you can answer these questions truthfully (and humbly) then you're ready to ask.

Who to ask?

Choosing the right person to ask for feedback is more about choosing the right person to coach you. It doesn't have to be your direct boss or your counterpart at work. The person you choose should share your values for professionalism in the workplace, self-awareness and learning should care about you, and should want to see you thrive. If the person you're planning on asking fits those criteria, then you've found yourself a candidate. It can be more helpful if this person has “seen you in action” but what I find is most useful is someone who can ask good questions and help you discover your blind spots on your own.

How to ask?

Asking is the easy part! Ask them if they'd be willing to give you some feedback, declare your intentions, and then set up a time to sit down together. By declaring your intentions, you maintain professionalism in the workplace and give them a better understanding of how they can help you. Imagine them asking you, “how can I help you?” Your answer is your intentions. Be sure to give them ample time to gather their thoughts prior to sitting down together. You'll also want to consider sharing your vision with them. The more information you can give this person with regards to how they can help you, the more helpful their feedback can be. By sharing what your short or long term goals are or how this feedback relates to your dream, the better they can drum up some meaningful feedback. You'll want to be sure that they understand your motivations and goals.

When to ask?

It's always a good time to ask for feedback. It doesn't matter if you just did something new, hard, or amazing. Whether you just failed, succeeded, or took a risk. The point is: if you have that person whom you trust and who wants to see you learn, grow, and thrive then ask frequently. When I find that person I like to create an open door policy and ask them to “See it, say it.” I expect people to shout out when I'm rocking it and to blow the whistle when I'm losing it. The sooner the better. Follow your inner guide and when you feel like you might be blowing it, reach out and ask for some help.

When not to ask?

I'm a huge advocate for feedback cultures whereby feedback is frequent and everyone wants to learn and grow. This works for me. But we all have to recognize when we're on the football field with our ice skates. If you find yourself in an environment that doesn't put money, time, and resources into professional development and learning, and if the culture is one that doesn't value feedback, then don't waste your time. If you look around you and the “Who to Ask” person isn't nearby - don't fret. If there isn't someone inside the organization who wants to help you grow then consider looking externally. You can find a mentor, hire a coach, or join a professional association. If you are hungry for it, you'll find someone who will invest in you. If you're not into external forces, try looking inward. Pick up a pen and get journaling. By asking yourself three questions each day - you can be your own coach: how did I do well today, what could I have done better, what will I do tomorrow.

The essence of feedback is learning, self-awareness, and growth. If these matter to you, don't let anything stand in your way. You'll find that person who wants to see you thrive or you'll find it in yourself. How you go about your path is your decision, now, take the lead!

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