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The secret to asking for feedback (that you can use)

In my last blog post, I shared strategies for giving and receiving feedback at work. I was feeling pretty savvy until the feedback that I had asked for on my article started coming in. Suddenly, I was feeling puny.

The nature of the feedback that I received on my blog post was pretty innocuous. Things like typos and writing style suggestions. These were changes that I could either implement right away, or work on over time. They would help to make me a better writer. That’s good.

Some of the feedback I received came via email, from people I didn’t know very well. You see, I asked about 10,000 people at once for their feedback. I was not discriminating in who I asked. People will say things on social media and on email that they probably wouldn’t say to you face to face. You also can’t read their body language or gauge their vocal expression to add context and meaning. Factors such as who, where, and how made a difference in my feedback experience.

Still I wonder, why did it hit me so hard? Was I just being sensitive? Was the timing bad for me? Did I not follow the 5-step strategy for receiving feedback (note: I only did the fifth step, which was to say “thank you for your feedback.” I didn’t ask for specific examples – step #3)

Then I remembered that while I had shared strategies for giving and receiving feedback, I did not include a strategy for how to ask for feedback. This is the third step in the feedback loop: 1) to give feedback; 2) to receive feedback; and 3) to ask for feedback.

There is an art to asking for feedback in a way that gets you what you need to move forward in your personal and professional development. Here’s the process that I came up with:

Here’s an example of how you might use the 8-step process to help you to prepare for a major presentation:

  1. Know your goal. You have been working on your voice inflection, trying to leverage more vocal power when you make presentations. You know that your voice sounds shaky when you are nervous, and have been working on relaxation techniques and vocal warm ups to improve the quality of your voice.
  2. Ask someone you trust and respect. Your boss is a decent presenter, but not great one. You have always admired the voice and presentation skill of a colleague who works in another department. You feel that she be better suited to advise you on your voice and give you constructive feedback and suggestions.
  3. Ask them in advance of your performance. You approach her a week before the major presentation. You ask her if she’ll sit in on the presentation (and maybe even be in the mock audience of your practice presentation) and give you constructive feedback. While you are open to her other comments, you are particularly looking for feedback on how effectively you used your voice and what you can do to improve its impact.
  4. Decide when/where you will have the feedback conversation. You set a date a day after the major presentation to get together. You find a way to audio or video record the presentation (smart phone to the rescue) so that you can both use this as a reference tool in your review meeting.
  5. Ask for specific examples and ideas. During your in person feedback session, you ask her to identify specific areas in which you used your voice effectively, and other times when your voice shrank or undermined your message or credibility. You ask her to demonstrate the vocal techniques that she shares. You repeat what she does and enjoy an impromptu coaching and training session with her. You both laugh and have a good time with this.
  6. Thank them. Although you already thanked her in advanced when she agreed to help you with this feedback request, you thank her at the end of your review meeting. Even though it may have been difficult to receive this particular feedback, you know that it is for your professional development and personal betterment. You make a note to drop her a handwritten thank you card (mailing it to her home, with a real stamp on the envelope. Now that will impress her!)
  7. Decide what you want to do with the feedback. She shared quite of bit of feedback with you. Some of it appeared to fit her goals more than yours. Other parts were really relevant to where you are and where you need to be. You decide consciously to implement some of her suggestions. You decide to shelve other ideas for later. Some ideas go in the trash bin in your mind. Even though you asked for the feedback and she gave it to you, you know that you are not obligated to do everything she suggests. You are the captain of your (career) ship.
  8. Keep them in the loop on your progress. Because you value her as a colleague and are grateful for her helpful feedback, you reach out to her every so often. You give her short progress reports on how you are doing with your presentations and how her feedback helped you grow and develop as a speaker/presenter. You share other presentation resources and ideas with her. You continue to develop your professional relationship with her, as she is a resource for you, possibly as a future mentor or adviser. Or vice versa.

Put this idea into action

Reflect on the primary skill set or behavioral change you have been working on, or thinking about working on for some time now. Think about who is in the best position to give you feedback on your progress and development needs. It may be the obvious players – those closest to you, like your boss, your spouse, your customer. Or it may be some other “expert” that you admire who sees your work, but does not have a vested interest in the outcome.

Approach the selected person and follow the 8 steps in the strategy for asking for feedback. You can even share the strategy steps with him/her, so you are operating from the same road map.

Schedule the feedback session, complete the “performance” (i.e., the presentation, the meeting, the behavior, etc.), and don’t chicken out. Play this one full out and wring every bit of value out of it.

Take notes during the feedback session. Afterwards, file it in the folder (physical or electronic) that you use to prepare for your annual performance review with your boss.

Asking for feedback, receiving it and then using it to improve yourself demonstrates that you are an engaged employee who takes personal responsibility for his/her growth and development.

Asking for feedback takes courage. Implementing the feedback that you receive to improve yourself takes confidence. And when the positive results roll in, feel free to bask in a little glory.

I have the courage and the confidence to ask for feedback.

It is a gift that will help me grow personally and professionally.

Please post your comments to this blog post on my facebook page –









Strategies for Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work

This month I’ve been immersed in the topic of feedback. I’m getting ready to give a seminar for a large company on the value of feedback in the context of teams and team effectiveness. My seminar title is “Everyday Feedback for High Performance Teams.” 

As an executive presentation coach, I am paid to give people feedback. I try to balance my feedback with both positive and negative comments, as appropriate, so that the client stays motivated and committed to the process of professional development.

I’ve seen times when feedback works extremely well to create positive changes and build people’s self-esteem and motivation. I have also seen times when feedback discourages and alienates people.

I have also observed how I personally receive feedback from others. Even though I have a philosophy that “feedback is a gift,” I have to work up the courage to ask for it. Then I brace myself for the worst…

Feedback is definitely a two-way street

The road of feedback is not always smoothly paved. Sometimes it is filled with obstacles and detours, and even pot holes that you didn’t see coming.

Sometimes feedback in the workplace is disguised as advice, projection, evaluation, anger, and even sabotage. Rarely can you use that feedback to improve yourself.

The most memorable feedback that I ever received from a peer was the following, “Your management style is like poison.” Needless to say, that feedback was a difficult pill to swallow!

A few of my favorite blog posts on the subject of effective feedback include:

  • Grant Wiggins writes about feedback and its value in the educational system. His article Seven Keys to Effective Feedback outlines a methodology that could also work in the corporate environment, where feedback is poorly practiced. Mr. Wiggins focuses on the quality of the feedback and suggests that we make it:  1) goal-referenced; 2) tangible and transparent; 3) actionable; 4) user-friendly; 5) timely (as opposed to immediate); 6) ongoing; and 7) consistent.
  • Glenn Llopis is a guest blogger on and I find that his business articles are very thought-provoking. He wrote an article entitled 6 Ways Successful Teams are Built to Last.  Being proactive with feedback came in at #4 on his list. I am also pleased to see that Get to Know the Rest of the Team is listed as #2. Networking and relationship-building are key ingredients for team success!

“Feedback is simply the art of great communication. It should be something that is part of one’s natural dialogue.” – Glenn Llopis

5-Step Strategy for Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work

Sometimes it’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that makes all the difference. I find that especially true in the dispensing and digestion of constructive feedback. To that end, I developed a 5-step strategy to help you to prepare yourself for the giving and receiving of feedback at work.

  • Click on the image and save it. You can print out this business sized card and keep it in your wallet or on your desk if you like.

Examples of how to work the 5 step strategy for GIVING and RECEIVING feedback

GIVING feedback at work

  1. Examine your motivations. Before you open your mouth and share your feedback, take a few quiet moments to ask yourself, “For the sake of what do I want/need to share this feedback?  Am I doing it for me, or to help my colleague? What would happen if I didn’t share this feedback? What do I hope will happen if I do share this feedback? Note: some feedback is ego driven and is best kept to yourself.
  2. Ask for permission. Never offer unsolicited feedback. It can backfire big time. Choose the best timing and environment to offer your feedback. Start with the question, Are you open to some feedback? If they say yes, then proceed. If they say no or not now, stop. Let them seek you out when the time is right for them.
  3. Prioritize your feedback. Don’t make your feedback experience like drinking from a fire hose. Be strategic and thoughtful about the most important feedback that needs to be shared. If you have ten points, you have too many. Narrow them down to the top three. Know the order of importance. What changes will make the most difference in the success of your colleague?
  4. Give specific examples. Share your observations in a nonjudgmental way. Reference specific examples of their behavior (good or bad) that you want to give feedback on. Being too vague or general in your feedback makes it difficult for them to understand or convert into action. Also be careful when making sweeping statements that begin with phrases like “You always…” or “You never…”
  5. Check in. Double check to make sure that they understand your feedback. Use simple phrases like, “Does that make sense to you?” or “Do you see what I’m saying?” or “What questions or comments do you have?“  Then stop talking and listen. Pay attention to their body language and eye patterns, which tell you a lot about how your feedback is being received.

RECEIVING feedback at work

It takes a grace and courage to receive someone’s feedback at work. Let me give you a little scripting to help you understand how you might use these five steps to receive feedback that you can use:

  1. Assume open body language. If you notice that you have crossed your arms or are holding your breath, release and relax your body. It’s natural to tighten up and become defensive. Do a quick scan of your body and try to release any grip or tension that you can building up inside of you. Soften your face. Keep your breathing even.
  2. Paraphrase their feedback. After they share their feedback, before you respond to it, make sure that they understand what they are trying to tell you. Repeat back what you have heard without responding in any other way. This is not the time to mind read, jump to conclusions or react. You might say,  “If I understand you, you think that ……  Do I have that right?” 
  3. Request specific examples and ideas. Context and specifics are vital in feedback, so if you don’t get them at first, ask for more specifics. You are not being defensive, but rather trying to bring to the table the specific circumstances surrounding your behavior and actions. Be like a detective and look for the specific clues in this case. For example, you might say, “Can you give me a specific example of what you observed?”  followed by “What specific ideas would you suggest that I try the next time this situation arises?”
  4. Ask them to prioritize. It can be overwhelming to receive a deluge of feedback all at once. You can only make so many changes so quickly. So the question is, which change is the most important and will benefit you the most?  You might ask, for example, “Of the five things you mentioned as areas of opportunity for me, which would you prioritize as the most important? Which one should I tackle first?”
  5. Thank them. Gratitude for feedback, regardless of its nature, is an important aspect of your professionalism. A thank you costs you nothing, but has high value to the recipient. Take care that your body language and vocal intonation align with the spirit of gratitude.  You might say, “Thank you for taking the time to give me this helpful feedback. It shows that you are vested in my career here at the company, and I appreciate that.”

Put this idea into action

Examine your own attitude and behavior regarding the practice of feedback in the workplace. Be honest with yourself about how often you seek it out, how you receive it and what happens when you share your feedback with others. Feedback, like all communication skills, is vital for every professional, at every level, in all disciplines. Sharpening the saw on giving and receiving feedback will help you grow and develop into a more effective, more enlightened leader.

This coming week, use the 5 Part Strategy for Giving and Receiving Feedback. Task yourself to do three things:

  1. Give feedback to a colleague. Then ask for feedback on your feedback. Have a discussion about the topic of feedback. Share the 5 part strategy with him/her.
  2. Receive feedback from a colleague. Then ask for feedback on what it was like for them to give you this feedback.
  3. Seek out feedback from a colleague. That is, ask for it. Share your learning goals with a trusted colleague and ask them to give you feedback when the opportunity next presents itself. Let them know that you value feedback as a development tool.

And remember, that there is no failure, only feedback.

I welcome YOUR FEEDBACK on this blog page on my Facebook page -

One Thought – One Person

I had the opportunity last week to work with Leesa Wallace, The Performance Architect. She is an expert in leadership and management learning strategy, curriculum design, and program facilitation. During a pilot program, she introduced a concept that I found fascinating – Eye Connection. With her permission I would like to share it with you on this blog.

Beyond the basics of eye contact

Eye connection is the intentional practice of communicating one thought to one person. You decide ahead of time whose eyes you are going to look at as you communicate your thought.

Leesa’s mantra is: One Thought – One Person.

What your eyes do when you communicate

What you do with your eyes sends powerful messages to the people you are with. You may not even be aware of what your eyes are doing when you communicate with people.

It’s very interesting to observe someone’s eye patterns. Eye movements provide clues as to how people process and access information in their brains. Eye movements will reveal where they go to search for stored data in their mental files, and how they formulate responses to questions or situations at work. You might even be able to detect when they are telling a lie, by watching their eye movements very closely.

What I notice most often is when people divert their eyes at critical moments in communication and how that lessens their credibility and power.

Think about how often your eyes flick away right at the moment of truth. For example what do you do with your eyes when you give your recommendation, ask for the order, or ask for a pay raise?

When you speak or listen to others speak, what are the actions of your eyes?

  • Do your eyes move rapidly – scanning the room?
  • Do you look at the floor or at the ceiling?
  • Do your eyes ping pong from side to side?
  • Do you stare off into space?
  • Do you defocus your eyes and appear to look at nothing at all?
  • Do you look into someone’s eyes?

Why and how eye connection works so well

The Situation:

Stimulus comes in from the eyes or ears and goes immediately to your brain. When you look at a group of people, your instinct is to move your eyes rapidly to take them all in. This stimulates the eyes.

The faster the eyes move, the faster your brain has to work to take in the information. This can result in feeling more nervous, speaking too quickly, going blank, or not thinking clearly.

Eye Connection fundamentals:

The idea behind Eye Connection is to talk to one person at a time, one thought at a time. A thought is a short, declarative statement (not a question).

In a remote situation or on conference calls, the eye connection skill becomes even more important, especially since we tend to speed up virtually. I suggest that you find three or four objects in the room and finish your thoughts with ‘them.’ Sounds weird. Actually, it works.

After finishing a thought, PAUSE. Then begin your next thought, looking at another person’s eyes.

Do not stare. Finishing a thought with someone is speaking to them, not staring at them. It allows you to read the audience and adjust your message, if necessary.

Who will you start your eye connection with?

This is an important decision and often one not even considered before we open our mouths. So as you prepare the opening remarks of your presentation or your business meeting you are facilitating, give some strategic thought as to WHO you will be looking at when you say your words.

If you are sitting at a conference table with people to your right, to your left and straight ahead of you, observe the eye connections being made around the room. When it’s your turn to speak, lead, or respond, practice good eye connection. Take your time to shift your body to face the person you want to make the eye connection with. Then speak. You will be amazed at the power that this nonverbal communication has on them…and on you.

Uncomfortable at first

Leesa Wallace shared with the participants enrolled in her “Presenting with Impact” one day course:

“At first, the skill of eye connection doesn’t feel natural. But with practice and experience you will come to discover its power and utility.”

Eye connection helps you to reduce nervousness and allows you to better connect with your audience. Using the eye connection strategy also slows you down when you speak, giving your brain time to process, and your audience time to absorb your ideas.

Put this idea into action

The next time you preparing for a meeting or presentation, make a decision as to whom you will make eye connection with when you begin speaking. Be very intentional about this. Before you speak, turn your body and your eyes to face this person. Then speak. One thought delivered on this one person. Don’t rush, take your time. Pause before moving on.

Practice this eye connection strategy is everyday situations where you are speaking and communicating with others.

Try the eye connection strategy when you are on conference calls. Pull up the LinkedIn profile of the person you are speaking to on the telephone and look at their photo as you speak to them over the telephone. Or post colored sheets of paper around your office and use these as objects to direct your eye connection to when participating in or leading tele-sessions. Make eye connection part of your virtual communication strategy.

Lastly, observe what other people do with their eyes when they communicate. Don’t judge it, just observe it. Observe the impact that this important aspect of nonverbal communication has on you and your colleagues.

And remember the mantra: One thought – One person.




A very personal resume

I was in a yoga class this past Saturday when it dawned on me that August 23rd held special significance. Three years ago, I completed my final chemotherapy treatment. I had sent ovarian cancer out of my life for good (hopefully!)  I remember that day because it’s also my mother’s birthday. Two good reasons to celebrate!

  • This photo was taken during my last chemo session. I decided to dress up and wear a wig to celebrate the occasion in style. Why not?!

When I shared this triumphant news with my yoga instructor, she praised me for being strong and resilient. She then told me about a book that she had read titled, When bad things happen to good people, by Rabbi Harold Kushner. This book had been very helpful to her as a young widow with three young children, dealing with the sudden death of her husband in a freak accident.

I have not read this book, but just the mention of its title got us into a conversation about overcoming adversity and hardship. What person on Earth has not experienced some kind of adversity? Trauma affects all people. Suffering is universal; it’s the human condition.

We agreed that it’s what you do after the hardship that makes all the difference. Difficult experiences can shape your life positively or negatively, depending on your response and attitude.

Suddenly the phrase, “Resume of Your Life” popped out of my mouth, and I knew it was an idea worth sharing on this blog.

Have you ever wanted to write a full-disclosure resume?

I got this crazy idea in my head to write a resume of my life. That is, recording the key events and milestones that I had experienced over the different periods, from childhood to adulthood. It could serve as an outline for a possible autobiography, if I ever wanted to write one (or if anyone would ever want to read it). It would take less time and could serve as a good reflection on my life (if not memory jogger).

How I structured the Resume of My Life

Using the format of my existing professional resume (created by my friend and resume writer, Bree Gurin), I began organizing my life events in decades (in reverse chronological order). Since I couldn’t remember the specific year in which things happened, my age in decades seemed like an easier way to organize and capture the major events in my life. Maybe you are like me and you can remember what you did on your 30th birthday, but need a calculator to figure out in which calendar year that milestone occurred.

I gave each decade a theme (e.g., My 50′s = Resilient Survivor; My 40′s  = Adventures in Parenting ; My 30′s = Marriage, Living Abroad, Career Growth; My 20′s Single Ambitious Career Woman, etc.)

In bullet point format under each decade, I listed the major events, decisions, failures, victories, hardships and lessons learned. I included only the ones that really stood out to me as benchmark experiences. I honored each one as a valuable life lesson.

When all of that was done, I pushed my chair back and reflected on what should be at the top of my Life’s Resume. What would be my personal summary statement? (versus summary of professional expertise?) In place of Competencies, what Attributes and Gifts would I capture on my personal resume? This section perhaps held the greatest value for me in this exercise.

When it was done and I had printed it out, I couldn’t help but wonder what themes and experiences would continue to shape me as an individual in future decades. This exercise made me see that my life’s experiences, both good and bad, were valuable.

To share or not to share?

I considered sharing the Resume of My Life on this blog, but I have decided that it is too personal to post on the worldwide web. Something like this is better shared one-on-one with selected individuals.

But I did want to share the top portion with you, so you could get an idea of what/how you might work on your own. I feel that this exercise will be useful in the development of your personal brand and living your personal brand values.

Resume of My Life

Kathy McAfee  – “The Great Encourager”

Global Difference Maker whose personal mission is to change the world for good by inspiring people to direct their talents and resources to make a difference for others. A woman of action who lives her life with a fierce urgency of now. Bold and determined, Kathy puts herself and her ideas out into the world to take hold and grow. Kathy possesses a dynamic presence and compelling qualities that win people over. A good friend, loving daughter, loyal wife, thoughtful sister, aunt, niece and cousin, Kathy strives to make other people happy, while also being content herself.

Gifts and Attributes

Relationship Building Business Curiosity Positive Attitude
Creativity and Imagination Self-Healing /Resilient Action – Doer
Thought-leadership Nurturing Lifelong Learner
Writing – Blogging Appreciation/Gratitude Money Smart
Public Speaking Volunteer-leadership Organized
Marketing and Branding Generous – Philanthropic Self-Motivated
Communication Skills High Energy Inspiring

Do you possess some of these same gifts and attributes? What words would you include on your personal life resume?

What would Buddha say?

As you reflect upon the events that have shaped your life and made you the person that you are, I want to share one more insight. It comes from the book that I am reading called, The Trauma of Everyday Life, by Mark Epstein, MD. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Epstein (born 1953) is an American author and psychotherapist, integrating both Buddha’s and Sigmund Freud’s approaches to trauma, and writing about their interplay. In his most recent book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, he interprets the Buddha’s spiritual journey as grounded in Buddha’s personal childhood trauma.


(Trauma) …is not something to be ashamed of, not a sign of weakness, and not a reflection of inner failing. It is simply a fact of life.”

“…the traumas of everyday life, if they do not destroy us, become bearable, even illuminating, when we learn to relate to them differently.” -

- Dr. Mark Epstein, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life (page 3)

Put this idea into action

Set aside at least two hours for this exercise. Download the TEMPLATE – Resume of My Life and save it to your computer. Fill in your name on the template. Have a copy of your professional resume on hand, which will be useful in referencing key dates, places and events from your work life.

Allow yourself to be completely honest about the events in your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. They all contributed to making you the person that you have become. No one else has to see this personal life resume, unless you decide to share it with them.

If you are a visually dominant person, you might enjoy putting the Resume of Your Life in a visual timeline fashion (just as magazines do to depict the history of a company).

When you are finished, print it out and review it. Reflect upon your life’s lessons. Avoid blaming others for the things that happened to you. Instead, take responsibility for your response, and pride in your perseverance and survival.

Make a plan to review your Life Resume and update it periodically. Keep up with the changes in your life.

Finally, always be on the lookout for cool things to add to your Life Resume. Every experience (good, bad and ordinary) can teach you something and add to the richness of your life.

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