This episode is about getting good feedback – another in our series of challenges for women engineers.
We know from Episode 2 that getting good feedback is a key component of the care and feeding of your engineering career. We talked about it in the context of maintaining consistent consultations with your boss.
We know from last week’s episode about the upward mobility model that not getting the right kind of feedback can really hamper the upward progress in your career.
Why do you need good feedback? Getting good feedback is really important. It’s how your employer communicates their impression of you and your contributions to the mission. It’s a significant indicator of your performance and an important gauge for deciding your next steps.
Feedback influences your perception of your work, how you feel about your accomplishments and your prospects for the future.
This is something that took me a long time to realize. By the time I had a supervisor who was skilled at giving feedback I was already a few years into my engineering career.
I feel like I lost some time because of this. I want to save you some “lost time” by making you aware of what good feedback is, how to get it and how to use it.
When done well, good feedback sets organizations apart. It gives employees every opportunity to become their best selves. And in turn organizational performance can soar.
If good feedback is so important, why is it so hard to come by? Because giving good feedback is not easy. It’s probably one of the hardest things your boss has to do. But it’s also a critical part of your boss’s job. Good feedback is something you should expect from a good boss.
I want to cover what good feedback is, how to recognize it, ways to get it, accepting it, and leveraging it for your engineering career vision. But that’s a lot for one episode.
So today let’s dive into a description of good feedback, how to recognize it, and ways to ask for it. Then next time we’ll address how to handle feedback when you get it.
How to Recognize Good Feedback for Your Engineering Career
What is good feedback? Good feedback gives you a clear indication of whether or not you’re meeting expectations, what you did well, and what you need to work on.
It will include the giver’s view of both your strengths and shortfalls. It will affirm your progress as well as push you to improve. The feedback should be specific, descriptive, and include examples.
You will recognize good feedback because it will have all 3 elements: how you meet expectations, where you excel, and where you fall short.
If you don’t get good feedback, your career progress will be limited. You can recognize “bad” feedback if it’s:
- Incomplete: doesn’t include all 3 elements or doesn’t include any specific examples.
- Vague: contains generalizations and sweeping comments, like “We love what you’re doing. Keep it up!” Or “Don’t worry, you’re doing great!” You may be tempted to take this as good feedback because these are nice compliments. But it’s not good feedback because it’s not actionable.
- Disguised: given in the form of a rating or checklist without any commentary. Ratings show how you compare to others or to certain criteria. But they don’t provide input or advice on how you can grow and improve. (Maybe you’ll get a rating in addition to feedback, but by themselves they are insufficient.)
- Inauthentic: the same feedback that all the engineers at your level receive. It’s impersonal, detached and generic. This kind of feedback doesn’t provide the specifics you need as an individual to better yourself and pursue your goals.
Note that “bad” feedback should not be confused with unfavorable statements that come with good feedback.
Some uncomfortable or unfavorable statements may come at you when you’re given good feedback. Statements that indicate where you made a mistake or are not meeting expectations. These statements are still good feedback because you need to know them in order to improve.
I’ll be the first to admit how difficult it is to hear that I wasn’t up to par in something I worked on. This highlights another challenge in the whole feedback process.
We all want to hear how well we did without any negatives. But instead we need to realize we’re not perfect and learn to be open to constructive criticism. So put yourself in that mindset and be prepared for good, honest feedback.
How Women Engineers Can Ask for Good Feedback
How can you ensure that you get good feedback? It’s all about asking.
Maybe you have a savvy and caring boss who is great at giving you feedback. That’s wonderful! But I have to say that this is not the norm in my experience.
There are any number of reasons why you might not get good feedback. For example, if
- your boss is not very skilled at it
- you or your boss are new to the group and don’t know each other well
- the timing of the feedback conflicts with fires that need fighting
- your organization doesn’t prioritize good feedback
- there are personality clashes.
For whatever reason, if you’re not getting good enough feedback, then ask for it. It’s up to you to be proactive. Here are my 4 tips for ensuring you get good feedback:
- Think about the kind of feedback you need. It’s worth taking the time and asking yourself some questions. What do you feel is missing? What do you think would help you the most right now? What do you need clarification on?
- Ask pointed questions based on the kind of feedback you need. For example, you could ask, how did I do on this project (presentation, report, etc.)? What did you like about what I did? And where can I do better? What should I prioritize next?
- If you’re not exactly sure of the kind of feedback you need, you can generally ask for the 3 elements with examples: How am I meeting expectations? Where am I excelling? and Where am I falling short? Make sure you get specific examples.
- Seek feedback more frequently and from others besides your boss. The input and perceptions of others, like a mentor, team leader, or colleague, can be very valuable. Especially if you and your boss don’t always see eye-to-eye. And receiving feedback shouldn’t be limited to your annual review time.
If you pay special attention to the feedback you need and the way you get it, you’ll benefit by having an understanding of how you’re contributing and where improvements will have a greater impact. You’ll also be better connected to the people who can help you excel.
It’s a great way to improve your visibility and recognition, and allow you to have influence and opportunity.
Recap: Today we had some great discussion on getting good feedback. We began with a description of what good feedback is and how to recognize both good and bad feedback. And we ended with some tips on how you can ensure that you get good feedback to help you in your career.
Now that you know what good feedback is and how to ask for it, you’re ready to learn how to handle feedback when you get it. And next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast, that’s exactly what we’ll talk about! Don’t miss Episode 20.