“I’m always asking my boss how I’m doing, and he says fine. Then when I get my review, I feel like I’ve been ambushed.” I’ve heard comments like this from many people at all levels of their organizations.
The problem isn’t that those bosses don’t want to help. People generally want to help others. If you ask your boss the question, “How am I doing?” Typically bosses won’t deliver a performance appraisal, even an informal one, without thinking it through. Perhaps you’ve asked this question with no warning and so the reflexive response to that surprise request is, “Fine.”
To take advantage of the human desire to help, you need to make it as easy as possible for that person to help you. Asking for feedback in a manner that makes it easier for that person to help you increases the odds of getting a constructive response. Career coaches tell job seekers the same thing about networking. “Don’t make people uncomfortable by asking for something they don’t have (a job).” Ask them for something they do have such as information about the company or field.
So if you want feedback about your performance from your boss, saying something along the lines of “What’s one thing that I should focus on during the next month to upgrade my performance?” This is a much easier question to answer than asking for an assessment of your performance. Asking this question or variations of it throughout the year will give you helpful feedback. You could even ask critical stakeholders, "What's one thing I could do to make me easier to work with?" or some variant of that question.
Whatever the question you ask, don't make them feel like they have to judge your performance. They'll probably feel comfortable suggesting one thing.
If you sense hesitation, tell your boss (or whoever you’re asking) that you realize you might have caught them off guard and that it would be great if they could get back to you at a later time.
Before you ask someone for help, ask yourself three questions: 1) Can the person give me the help I’m asking for? 2) Am I asking for it the right way so that they think it’s easy for them to help? 3) Am I asking for it at the right time and in the right place? Remember that feedback is a gift. If you as the requestor make it easy for them to help, odds are they will.
Question: How do you ask your boss for performance feedback between reviews?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.