Last Thursday, I attended the monthly meeting of the Cochrane Public Library Book Club. The members had read my latest book, The Secret Marathon and I was invited to go and speak to them about the book, the upcoming movie of the same name and to answer their questions.
For me it was an enlightening experience. Usually, I meet people at book signings and other events where I am selling my books and the purchasers have not yet had a chance to read them.
At the book club, I was hearing what people thought of the book, its contents, the layout and how the chapters from different contributors enhanced the story. I also heard about what things might have been added e.g. a map of the area in which the story occurs. I heard about which aspects of the book resonated most with people and which ones gave them most food for thought. I listened to suggestions and comments which will be of great value if the publisher should choose to opt for an updated version.
I was delighted to hear that some people had been affected, emotionally, some had been inspired to take action and others had learned things they had not previously been aware of.
All of the comments and observations were invaluable to me. They gave me an insight into how a diverse group of people perceived my work. It made me realize how important it is to ask for feedback.
However, for some people that may be a little intimidating. If you ask for feedback, you would hope to get some constructive criticism, i.e. valid and well-reasoned opinions about your work, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.
In the workplace, it is important to find out how others evaluate your work and services, whether they be employees, colleagues, bosses or clients. The important thing is the way you go about asking for feedback and ensuring it is going to be valuable and help you improve.
About the Author
Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNN, BBC, CBC, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.
In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com and see what he can do for you in the long run.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, December 2014, entitled How To Ask ForFeedback That Will Actually Help You, Peter Bregnam recommends you take these steps, in order to help others provide the sort of feedback that would be of most value:
Be clear that you want honest feedback. Let people know they’re doing you a favor by being truthful. “Don’t be nice,” you can tell them. “Be helpful”. Explain that you want to get the most out of the conversation, and it won’t work if they hold back.
Focus on the future. Ask what you can do better going forward as opposed to what you did wrong in the past. When you ask people what you can do to be more effective in the future, they tend to be more honest.
Probe more deeply. Don’t just ask once. Give people multiple opportunities to give you real feedback, to increase the chances they’ll feel comfortable doing so. It can be helpful to ask about specific situations — for example, what could you have done better in a particular meeting?
Listen without judgment. Try not to judge any feedback you receive, whether it’s positive or negative. Thank people for being honest with you and let them know that you find their observations and opinions helpful. If they think that you really want the truth and you won’t react poorly to negative feedback, they’ll be more willing to be completely honest. If you get defensive about anything, they’ll stop and be polite.
Write down what they say. This tactic accomplishes two things. A little silence communicates that you’re taking feedback seriously and it gives those offering it time to think about what else they might say. Often they’ll volunteer a second — and very important — thought while waiting for you to finish writing.
I was most grateful to the members of the book club for their honesty and insight. I learned a lot about what really resonated with a group who are avid readers and are happy to share their opinions.
If you are an author, I would suggest you seek out your local book clubs and offer to go and speak about your work, if they were to put your latest book on their reading list. Not only is it a unique way to get feedback, but it gives the members a chance to meet the author and put questions to them in person. For me, it turned out to be a most enjoyable and worthwhile experience.