How to Get the Feedback You Need for Your Professional Development

Performance-related feedback varies widely in terms of quality and frequency. It’s highly dependent on the capability of your manager, which you can’t control. Have a manager who’s a good leader, coach, teacher– priceless. Have a manager who’s thoroughly average or less– scary.

What’s common is not necessarily effective. What’s effective is not all that common.

As we’ll see, the key is to put yourself in the driver’s seat, to take control for how and from whom you get the feedback you need.

What’s Common

  1. The Yearly  Performance Appraisal : the Typical version

We all know this one – that yearly event where you get feedback against your performance objectives.

If you have a diligent manager, she may have solicited feedback from several of your business partners in addition to her own. She may ask you to do a self-assessment. Then you sit down, compare notes, discuss the year in review. You may have a couple of development goals in there, like which conference you attended, or what in-house courses you took.

The Pro’s

  • Use of multiple feedback, including self-assessment
  • The existence of yearly performance objectives
  • Manager’s investment in the meeting

The Con’s

  • Only a once a year event
  • No development goals, only activities
  • Not part of a year-long development process
  • It’s an event, not a process
  • Not likely to produce behavior change

Commonality: Very

Grade: C

Effectiveness: 4/10. The con’s outweigh the pro’s.

The Yearly Performance Appraisal: the  Disaster version (if you’re the employee)

It’s your yearly review. You go to your boss’s office.

He’s fumbling through papers on his desk, pulls out a copy of your appraisal, mumbles, “Hey.  Here’s your review. I’m on the way to the airport. Look it over. If you have any questions, call me on my cell in 45 minutes after I get through security. I’m out of here.”  True story.

The Pro’s – none.

The Con’s- everything. The perfect what not-to-do.

Commonality: Please tell me it’s infrequent.

Grade: F

Effectiveness: -10/0


  1. Periodic Feedback


Helpful Periodic Feedback

This is the type of situation when  your manager weighs in on something specific, like a presentation you just made, or keeping your cool during a heated conversation.


From a Good Manager


  • Can be motivating to you
  • Often unsolicited but deemed important
  • Objective
  • Witnessed first-hand or from trusted sources
  • Balanced – both positive and constructive situations
  • Tends to be conversational more than formal
  • Timely
  • Conveys sense that your manager not only has your back but also invested in your success


  • Not necessarily tied to a pattern of behavior or a specific performance objective

Grade: B

Effectiveness: 7/10. Higher if tied to specific development goals.

Not-So-Helpful Periodic Feedback

You can see this one coming – from so-so, to bad, to awful. (The pro’s, con’s, and grades – N/W – not worth it here).

From the Average Manager

If you have an “ok” manager, the feedback tends to be random and general, like “nice job” or “you’ll need to rewrite the proposal.” Overall, this type of feedback lacks the power needed to reinforce or change your behavior. “Just ok manager” = ho-hum feedback.

From the Tough Guy Manager

Then there’s the manager who thinks you only need feedback when you’re not performing up to standards. You know where I’m headed. When you’re performing well, aka, “doing your job,” no feedback needed. When you’re not performing, you’ll hear about it.

Say again?

You’ll never hear when you’re doing good, but you’ll always hear when you’re messing up. Interesting concept. There’s a name for this: demotivation.

From the Egocentric Manager

What about the “bad” manager. Bad as in big ego, being #1 , motivated by self-interest, eager to blame, eager to grab the credit. What would you expect for feedback from this individual? Let me prepare you for this. You’ll ALWAYS know when you’re screwing up. Be prepared to get blamed, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. And when you’re successful, don’t plan on getting credit. Someone beat you to the punch.

Time to move beyond the pro’s and con’s of what’s common  to what type of feedback you need.


Routine and Development-Related Feedback


This is what you deserve. This is what is most helpful.

In this process you’re working closely with your manager to get feedback related to building a particular skill and changing behavior.

For example, you’re good at building relationships but need to be more influential. You and your manager strategize  on what that looks like. You begin meeting with key individuals to hear discuss any concerns about the new software implementation. When you’re meeting with them as a group, you discuss how you’ll address their issues based on these discussions.

Then you and your boss follow-up to debrief what you’ve done, how it’s worked, what you will continue to do, and what you can improve.

Now we’re talking.


I know what you’re thinking.  Routine, development-related feedback sounds good,  but you’re not getting it.

What do you do?


Ask for it.

Take control of your professional development by asking for the  feedback you need, both positive and constructive, to calibrate your performance.

You can’t get a gauge only through self-assessment. Research in the areas of  sports-related and job-related performance proves that.  Self-feedback doesn’t work.

You need to the perspective of other people.

You need to understand their perceptions, even when you don’t agree with them.


What if your manager is not capable, willing, or predisposed  to do this for you?


Then find someone who can.

And  know where you’re headed when you ask for help.

If the feedback you’re looking for is more long-term career advice,  look for someone with the experience, insight, and willingness to sit with you periodically. These people exist, inside or outside your business. They are most likely in senior positions.  Go find them. Network. Ask around. They are out there.

If you’re looking for feedback on building a particular skill, you can ask a colleague, or a previous manager you’ve worked well with. Make this someone you trust, whose opinion counts.Tell them in specific terms what feedback you’re looking to do, what you want them to observe and consider.

What You Need to Know

Want a fulfilling and successful career?

You’ll need performance-related feedback.

It will  shorten your learning curve.

You’ll learn  more and benefit more from your mistakes.

You’ll learn how to calibrate your own perceptions against those of others.

You’ll learn what to accept and what not to – what you agree with and disagree with.

You’ll listen more.

You’ll digest more.

You’ll learn more about your strengths.

You’ll get smarter.

You’ll be more confident.

With persistence and practice, drive and determination, you’ll perform better.


Don’t have the feedback you need?

Take control of your professional development.

Find  people you know and respect.

Go ask for the feedback you need to grow professionally and succeed in your career.

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