Have you ever asked for feedback? Your request signals a desire to learn about the impact of your actions and make improvements.  While it is absolutely true that you have the right to act on the feedback you receive or ignore it completely, you also should be aware that those who muster up the courage to give you honest feedback, expect you to use the information and make changes. 

Here’s what I mean.  A while back, I was collecting constructive suggestions for improvement for a senior executive.  Hiring me for this process was his way of asking for feedback.  I spoke with a number of people – his boss, peers and direct reports.  Several of them had provided him with feedback before and were less than enthusiastic about giving it again.  Why?  Because, in their words, “He hasn’t changed.  He didn’t listen the last time, so I’m not sure this time will be different.” 

In response to such statements, I often say, “When, asked, it’s important to give honest feedback, with full awareness that the recipient has the right to act on it or not.” 

There really are two sides to the feedback equation.  The side of the giver and that of the receiver.  

  • Givers, when you provide feedback, give it and let it go.  Give in the true sense – without expectation.  Give the gift of your perspective, with honesty and compassion AND respect, knowing the recipient has right to do with it whatever she chooses.  If she makes changes you recognize, that’s wonderful.  Acknowledge and congratulate her.  If she does nothing as a result of your input, let that be fine, too.  Respect the person’s right to do as she chooses, which includes living with the consequence of her decision – be they positive or negative.
  • Receivers, when you ask for and receive feedback, especially developmental feedback, know that your request sends a signal that others are likely to read as, “I want to make some improvements.  I need your to help.”  That request will inspire others to support you – to work on your behalf.  If you do nothing with the feedback, the giver will be not be inclined to trust future requests or give again.  

As with every action, reaction, and inaction, there are consequences.  If you go to the trouble of asking for feedback, make sure you’re mentally and emotionally prepared to listen and take in all of the important information you’ll receive.  Then, demonstrate that your request was sincere and you’re genuinely interested in enhancing your effectiveness.