Seeking Feedback without Seeming Vulnerable

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Seeking Feedback without Seeming Vulnerable

In the exceptionally competitive environment many investment professionals find themselves in, it can feel as though asking for feedback — including in situations that may have long-term impacts on one’s professional and career development — is conveying a weakness or exposing vulnerability. So, how can you seek feedback without jeopardizing your competitiveness?

This question was raised during a networking session on differentiating yourself for career success at this year’s CFA Institute Annual Conference, and the subsequent discussion uncovered a few strategies worth sharing. First, Kassie Steegman, CFA, the executive coach facilitating the conversation, challenged the group to recognize that seeking honest feedback in this kind of environment is, in many ways, a powerful display of leadership, which may be recognized by peers more often than you may expect.

Successfully framing the request for feedback is an essential strategy:

  • Consider who you are seeking feedback from.
  • Be clear about what specifically you want input on.
  • Think about how to ask the question.

Taking the time to reflect on the specific behavior you wish to improve will make your request more efficient and prevent others from generalizing. When you ask for input, consider the approach that the prominent leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith dubbed “feedforward.” Don’t ask what could have been better; ask how you could do it better next time. In this subtle way, the context for the discussion is less a matter of correction and more firmly a matter of improving.

Another suggestion offered by an attendee was to not ask for input on your own behavior but to ask other people how they would accomplish similar goals. The key here, of course, is to listen carefully to their answer. In the opening plenary session on Sunday, Carl Richards called out our tendency to look only for data that support our preconceived hypotheses. As with investment management, this confirmation bias in our professional lives can be exceedingly counterproductive.

What additional suggestions do you have? Share them in the comments section below.


Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

Photo credit: Copyright W. Scott Mitchell

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