by Shedrack Owen
In your life and career as an individual, you’ll constantly be faced with instances where you are either going to prove yourself or evaluate your capacity.
Oftentimes, we are challenged by our personal limitations to come up with a balanced assessment of ourselves as a result of our bias and one-sided view of ourselves. There is a way out of this; it is getting feedback from others. Taking a step further to gather information about how other people see you is a great way to have a balanced assessment of yourself.
According to Malcom Hornby, in the book “Get That Job,” he said: “No matter how honest and thoughtful you have been, we all have blind spots! Others may point to weaknesses we are unaware of or, more commonly, strengths and abilities we have underestimated.” I totally agree with this.
Clearly, no two people will see you in exactly the same way. It is also – sometimes – untrue that other people will always see you more accurately than you see yourself. By talking to people whose opinions you value, you will develop a clearer picture of yourself.
Whose opinion should you value?
This is very dependent on your relationship, work status, ties or academic and/or professional background.
One way to decide whose opinion you should value is to think about your current manager, supervisor, colleagues, friends, partner, previous manager, subordinates, family members and neighbours.
- Have seen you in different situations
- Know you quite well, been with you for a considerable amount of time and know how you react to different situations
- Have your best interests at heart
- Are perceptive
- Display a sense of responsibility and integrity.
From the above guide, you can have an idea about who you should enlist and seek their opinion across selected categories.
What sort of feedback do you want?
Apart from wanting feedback, the objective and intentions behind it are also important. This will help you appreciate the judgement you’ll receive. The feedback you get from each person will, of course, depend on your relationship with them.
Friends and family can provide you with important feedback in such areas as your interpersonal skills, decision-making style, communication skills, ease of social interaction, some of your personality characteristics, how well you plan, how well organized you are, etc.
Don’t discard this feedback. If you can do something well at a home event or party, then the chances are that you can also do it well at work and in your business. Similarly, weaknesses seen at home are probably applicable to work or your business as well.
For example, if your brother/sister tells you that you don’t listen very well or that you have difficulties managing your temper, then you probably have similar difficulties in the work environment and while you run your business.
In addition, your manager, supervisor and/or work contacts (including past and present) are also an important source of information.
How best can you go about getting valuable responses from this set of people? According to Malcom Hornby, it is asking the right questions.
Some questions you may want to ask these contacts are:
- What do you see as my major skills? Strengths?
- What do you see as my major development areas?
- How can I improve how I am perceived by others?
- What areas should I try to improve?
- What kinds of job/business/projects do you think I can realistically aspire to engage in over the next few years?
- Are you aware of any jobs/business opportunities I would engage and excel at?
- How realistic do you think my goals are, based on what I’ve told you?
- What training and/or development do you think I need to attain these goals?
- What do you see as the key things I could do to increase/improve my chances of achieving the goals?
- What are the possible obstacles to me accomplishing the goals?
You can choose to ask a wide range of specific questions, but you have to stick to your objective and intentions, and briefly draft the right questions that can quickly help you get honest responses. People like to be asked for their opinions. It gives them a special feeling that they’re valued. Some may surprise you with their honesty and openness.
As you begin this search for honest opinions, you should be prepared to feel a bit down when they talk to you about your limitations and be prepared to also feel embarrassed when they start to sing your praises. It’s a win-win.
You also have to consider that the act of seeking feedback isn’t a popular activity as it comes with a high sense of responsibility and intentionality. The people you ask may not be used to giving this sort of feedback. It is advisable that you give them a few days notice, so they can be better prepared.
Also, based on the feedback you will receive, you may wish to develop new skills and abilities. You can develop these new skills and abilities by choosing to work with someone, taking training courses, continuing your education, taking a self-development assignment, taking more responsibilities that will stretch you, joining community organizations (clubs, professional networking groups, etc) and reading.
Whether you’re an individual seeking to grow in your career, work or business, you are in the best position to draft what is feasible in your situation. For example, as a non-worker or even an entrepreneur, you should know what feedback you need, the reason you need them and the right questions to ask.
However, at the end of the day, the goal remains the same: to improve and grow by developing new skills, abilities and reducing your weaknesses.