5T Approach for Career Conversations

In my MAnneHullcarch blog, I gave you 9 tips for starting career conversations.  Some of the most important career enhancing conversations are about getting meaningful feedback – observations of the impact of what you’re doing both successfully and things that could be done better. Do others share the same opinion of you and your work with you? Do you come across to others as you intend?  A recent conversation with a client revealed that his intention of improving his team’s work was coming across as judgmental and critical. As much as that hurt to hear, he can now adjust his approach to reduce alienating team members.

You can get useful feedback by doing one simple thing: Ask for it. But if you just ask for generic feedback you’re sure to make eyes roll.  Try the 5T approach:

1) Tactical: Outline the areas you currently know you want or should improve based on your current work. You can use your job description to get started. Perhaps your boss has mentioned something. Many organizations and professions have competencies that provide a wealth of direction for these conversations.  Look to the people who are considered the leaders in your division, profession, organization. What is it about them that you and others respect? Repeat this list for the kind of work you want to do next. The result should be a list of specific knowledge or behavior that you want feedback to validate or improve.

2) Target: Consider people you trust and respect for their perspectives. Who observes your work or is the recipient of it and can give you specific tips on what’s working and what could be better? Ask the people who have a stake in your work how you could do it more economically, better, or faster. When asking for feedback from your boss, what aspects of your work are most important to her? Establish an informal agreement with colleagues, mentors or others with whom you work to provide ongoing specific feedback. But how?

3) Timing:  Immediately following an incident while its fresh in their mind, ask for a their take on how you came across, or what went well or what you could have done differently.  Use the time walking from the conference room to your office, or an IM after the teleconference. Grab a cup of coffee the morning after or chat on the train  delivering a project, completing a task….you get the picture.

4) Take it: Ask for 1-2 things you could learn, improve, start doing, or stop doing that would enhance your credibility or professional reputation. Then respect their perspective, especially if it is different from your own. That’s the point in asking for it.  Avoid justifying or excusing your actions to get them to change their mind.  Ask for specific ways to improve, resources and commit to using their feedback.

5) Thanks:  Express your gratitude for their candor. Many people are uneasy in being honest and your graciousness will be appreciated.

We build our careers by our good work and our relationships with others. You can enhance your chances of doing the work you really want to do, and make a difference by paying attention to doing your work well and being open to making adjustments along the way.

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