I am big on feedback, a consequence of my McKinsey training and a strong desire to constantly improve and develop. I ask for feedback and give feedback regularly – and you should too.
Receiving feedback. Not all people are comfortable giving feedback and offer it voluntarily. So I reach out and ask for it, usually after completing a major piece of work together. If the person is comfortable/used to it, the conversation is pretty open and natural. If giving feedback is not a cup of their tea, it may be a bit awkward. Rather than asking directly what I did well / not-so-well, I may ask what are the top three things that would help me get to the next level; what are the top things that helped him/her in my role; or what are the things they were most impressed by from some of the other analysts/associates that they have worked with (and you will likely hear things that are actually the feedback for you).
At the end of the year (or semi-annually), you may be given formal feedback / review. If you were asking / being given regular feedback throughout the year, there should not be anything surprising related to your performance. What may be additional or new, is (i) mention/hint of your relative performance vs your peers at your level (usually mentioned only if you are a stronger performer) and (ii) outline of the opportunities / career progression for the next year. If I do not get these two incremental pieces of information (and the feedback is only a formal HR ‘tick-the-box’ exercise of repeating of what you already know), I tend to ask for it – I want to know where I am, what I need to do to get to the next level, and what I should focus on next year.
The key to receiving constructive/developmental feedback is not to be defensive (which may be a natural reaction). If the manager/reviewer mentions it (or it was mentioned by other people during the review process), it means it is either a reality or a perception – and in both cases you want to improve on it. The feedback is often fluffy (‘you need to act more professionally in a client setting’), so I tend to ask for specific examples or where the feedback is coming from (from a colleague, boss, external party; which situation..) so I can truly understand what they mean, can internalize it, and can act on it.
One of the most consistent positive pieces of feedback I have received over the last years, was acting on developmental feedback – and that is not that difficult if you listen well, understand what the feedback means, and actively work on implementing it. I may be over-structured about it (so you want to find the way that works for you best), but I prioritize the biggest action areas, and put regular reminders to my calendar to have them on my eyes constantly . In the past, I used the key action items as passwords for my computer/mobile – so was entering them several times a day…
Giving feedback. Sooner or later, you will find yourself in a situation where you will be asked to give feedback – either upwards (to your manager/supervisor), sideways (a peer), or downwards (maybe a summer intern you were supervising).
Giving upwards feedback is probably the most tricky, especially if there are developmental things you would like to highlight. Some people do not accept it well, so being a junior person, I would rather err on the side of caution. I would maybe mention things that would help you do your job better (‘if I got more precise instructions, I could do a better job for you..’; ‘I would love you to give me more regular feedback to be able to improve’), rather than highlighting all the flaws of your supervisor. As you develop a better relationship with your boss and become a bit more senior, the conversation becomes more open/two-way – they also want to improve and get to the next level.
For sideways/downward feedback, probably not much else to add to what was already said. Try to give that type of feedback, which you would like to receive – regular, specific (with examples), and focused on both strengths and developmental areas. McKinsey likes to use the ‘sandwich method’ – start with positives, then talk about development areas, and then finish on a positive note. It gets transparent what you are doing very early on (especially to people who have received some feedback before), but it is still easier to give as well as receive, if it is ‘wrapped up’ nicely.