Feedback: Ask and You Shall Receive

June 1, 2021
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Most executives want feedback—and complain when they don’t get it. But they seldom tell their manager.

In an ideal world, your manager would be having regular feedback conversations with you. If they aren’t, don’t assume silence means everything is going well—you might get blindsided in your annual performance review or overlooked for that promotion you covet or miss the chance to lead a high-profile task force. So how do you break the silence?

Breaking the Ice

When all else fails, ask for feedback but understand that for some people, giving feedback is challenging. Help the boss help you. A week before you meet, send three questions about the areas where you want to grow (e.g., “How can I be more strategic? How could I have ended that meeting on a better note? Where do my actions support or detract from the kind of culture we’re trying to create?”). This gives your manager a focus and some time to reflect and prepare. If your manager is a deep introvert, ask that your feedback be delivered via phone call or email.

Effective Receiving 

  1. Understand feedback is a gift. It’s a form of recognition and commitment to your development.
  2. Say thank you at the outset and at the end for taking the time on your behalf.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself to listen and understand the feedback. Go in with an open mind and know that someone is genuinely trying to help you.
  4. Clarify where needed so you fully understand the feedback, but try to avoid pushing back or arguing if you disagree (at a minimum sleep on it if you have a different viewpoint, and really try to think through what they are sharing).
  5. Ask if this is a derailer. Ask whether the feedback is simply a suggestion or career guidance for a minor tweak or more along the lines of “improve this or your career is in jeopardy.”
  6. Watch your body language—crossed arms, a frown, and/or a sigh signal disagreement or a wish that the meeting was over.
  7. Always bring something to take notes with…and then take notes!
  8. Take action: Talk about a plan to act on the feedback before expressing your appreciation.
  9. Ask what articles or books you should read to open your mind on a key subject.
  10. Solicit feedback from multiple viewpoints whenever possible and on an ongoing basis, preferably in 360 fashion. Reflections from all over your organization at every level can be extremely valuable, especially from those who shoot straight with you.


Grant W. Levitan is a Senior Partner based in Chicago. His work facilitates organic and authentic growth in leaders, enabling them to achieve new levels of performance and personal effectiveness.