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How to get better feedback (over email)

I’m currently redesigning my company’s logo.  After drafting some initial mock-ups on my own last night, I solicited feedback from a group of friends whose opinions I value. Here are some of the messages I received:

“..too derivative.”

“Not keen on any really….”

And my personal favorite:  “Thanks for sending. Honest first thoughts – let’s get you a slick graphic designer. Talk soon.”

To say that this feedback was unhelpful is an understatement.  In fact, as I read it before my coffee, it was utterly demoralizing.  In fact, I found myself somehow blaming my mood on them and even judging them on their “stupid” or “unhelpful” responses.  Hold up.  What was happening here?  How could I feel so totally deflated by the advice of people I really respect, especially when I asked for that advice from them?!  And how did I have the cajones to try to blame it on them?

For one, I hadn’t had my coffee yet.  And two, not all feedback is helpful, even when we’re asking for it.

But here’s a news flash:  only you are responsible for getting the feedback you want.  You can’t just ask for “feedback” or “your thoughts” and somehow expect that people will give you pearls of wisdom.

You need to take control of the process if you want helpful information to come back.  To do this effectively, try starting with a few questions for numero uno (yourself):

Before writing, ask yourself:

1. Why am I asking this person for their feedback?  (Do I want their help to problem solve?  If so, what is the problem I’m trying to solve?  Do I want a devil’s advocate?  Sounding board?  Affirmation or moral support?).

2.  What type of information is likely to be the most helpful for me? (Do I want their general opinion or a detailed analysis?  Suggestions or observations?)

3. Am I likely to resist their feedback in any way?  (Am I emotionally or operationally committed to the way I’m doing things now?  Is there information that I might not want to hear?)

4.  How is their feedback going to be useful to me?  (What actions do I hope to take or avoid based on their input?)

Get clear on those 4 questions before sending out another email asking for feedback.  Then, when drafting the message, share this information up front.  Start your email by telling the reader:

  1. Why you are asking for their feedback.
  2. What type of information you are looking for.
  3. The kind of information you don’t want to hear.
  4. How you will use their feedback going forward.

Now, if only I’d thought of that advice before I sent out that email last night, I wouldn’t have needed those extra few cups of coffee to get my day back on track….

About the author: Hi I’m Dan Green, blogger, entrepreneur, documentary film producer and negotiation specialist. I’ve helped executives negotiate deals worth up to 400 million USD. But before you read on…

2 comments… add one

  • Real nice piece buddy. Third response was Stu, no doubt.

    • Thanks, Tom. Glad you enjoyed it. While I can neither confirm nor deny said allegations, your powers of intuition are unparalleled :-)

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