19 September 2011

What are the two burning questions you can ask to find out what others really think of you?

Question symbol burning, fireSome people are lucky enough to be fully aware of their strengths and attributes. And able to leverage them.

Some people haven't a clue, blissfully ignorant of what they're good at and what they're not.

And some people just don't care, happy to impose their way of doing things, irrespective of the situation.

For the rest of us, we're left wondering if our perceptions of ourselves are valid or distorted. We seek a path of continued growth and personal development, looking for ways to improve our skills and create better results in our lives.  But we may not be sure of our real skills and what we should be working on to improve our skills and knowledge.

Uncovering your Blind Spot is an important step towards personal growth. Seeking feedback from others is an important way to get clarity on areas for improvement.  But here's the problem; questioning people for feedback can be threatening for both parties, often resulting in the trite but safe response that 'you're doing just fine'.  Unless you ask in the right way.

If you're uncertain about how you're perceived in certain situations,  and you want valid feedback:
  1. Choose the right person to ask.  Seek feedback from someone who knows how your perform  in the area you are looking to develop, and whose opinion you trust.
  2. Choose the right time to ask.  Make sure they're not working to a deadline, due at a meeting, or itching for lunch.  Make an appointment if appropriate.
  3. Provide context around seeking feedback; "I'm working on improving my skills in (managing my projects) and I'd really value your opinion" or "I'm seeking feedback in how I can better organise my time.  I'd appreciate your ideas and feedback?"
  4.  Ask the right questions.  Don't ask "How do you think I'm doing?"  Instead ask two better questions:
    • "What are 2 or 3 things you think I currently do WELL?" (This will help keep your self esteem intact and keep you open to their recommendations later.  Plus it's good to know what you are doing that works, so that you can KEEP doing it).  Don't move on to the second question until you have had a discussion about the good stuff.
    • "What are 3 things you think I could IMPROVE on, START doing or STOP doing that would enhance my effectiveness in (organising my time)?"  (This gives people direct permission to provide you with specific input).
  5. Thank them for being open.  It can be confronting to provide feedback (for both parties) so make it safe by rewarding honest input, "Thank you, I appreciate that insight. I wasn't aware I was doing that / coming across like that".
  6. Seek examples to gain clarity around their suggestions, if unsure.  For example, "Can you give me an example of how I could make that change?" or "What do you think is the impact of me doing it that way?" (This allows for additional discussion to help you consolidate the feedback received).
  7. Show appreciation for their time and openness.  
Increasing self awareness through feedback is a good step forward in creating positive change.  The next step is to action any changes you feel are appropriate.

Have fun in shining a light into your Blind Spot.  Confronting, yes.  Enlightening, absolutely!