How to Take Off the Armor: A Better Approach to Feedback at Work

written by  Ryan Seamons

Taking off the armor we wear at work and asking for genuine feedback is incredibly difficult. But being vulnerable can lead not only to helpful insights but also help reduce our worry and the need to carry on the charade of our own perfection. 

gray stainless steel armor

Julie Zhou shares a wonderful personal reflection on the breakthrough moment where she realized asking for feedback didn’t have to be so hard.

It takes a certain amount of confidence to ask for critical feedback. For me, the breakthrough came when I realized I needed to change my mindset. If I saw every challenge as a test of my worthiness, then I’d constantly worry about where I stood rather than how I could improve. It’s like stressing out more about your exam grade than about whether you’re actually learning the concepts being taught.

On the other hand, if I approached challenges with the belief that I could get better at anything if I put in the effort, then the vicious cycle of anxious self-evaluation would be broken. No matter how good or bad I am at any particular skill, the notion that it’s within my power to improve has allowed me to approach learning with curiosity instead of apprehension. 

(from The Making of a Manager)

The cycle of self-evaluation can be quite vicious.

When I first began managing I made a habit of asking for feedback something like this: “I’m always looking to make myself and our team better … what feedback do you have for me?” 

New employees especially were surprised by the question, and often unsure of what to say. But as I consistently asked the question and then listened, I drew many innovative ideas for our team and helpful insights about what I personally could change.

My invitation to you this week is to genuinely ask someone what feedback they have to help you be better. Often the armor we wear at work is ironically only protecting us from improvement.

Even at work, the truth shall set you free.

About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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