Forget feedback: To really improve, ask for advice

October 2, 2019 01:30

Evaluation. Critique. Feedback.

We all want to get better at what we do, but often the thought of someone ripping apart our work is humbling and intimidating. When you’re just getting started in the news business, it can be overwhelming or discouraging to hear how much you have to improve.

But when an annual review the only opportunity for feedback you get, that’s discouraging too. You may stagnate, stop trying to learn or wonder if your boss thinks you just can’t handle constrictive criticism.

When you find yourself looking for more from your supervisor (or struggling to give feedback), consider focusing on advice rather than feedback.

According to the Harvard Business Review, feedback is often ineffective at improving performance. It tends to be broader and general to the point of being vague. Critiques tend to focus on evaluating past work using value statements (“good” or “I didn’t like this”).

Advice, on the other hand, is more forward-looking, concrete and actionable. It also tends to be more positive, focusing on strengths you can replicate or solutions you can try.

Asking for advice can help you frame more specific questions and look more closely at your own work, too. “What’s your advice for creating a stronger reveal in this piece?” will get you more constructive insights than just asking “What’s your feedback?”

Advice also implies trust. It’s more typically a word associated with sympathetic columnists or close friends than supervisors, but asking for advice says you value someone’s expertise and feel comfortable asking for help.
Managers, are you building a culture of trust within your newsroom? Does your staff feel comfortable coming to you for advice, not just evaluation?

There’s still a place for feedback, evaluation and critique.

Critiques – especially when given with an eye to coaching, rather than fixing – can help break bad habits and provide immediate improvements when you’re working on a package. 

To get a holistic picture of how you’re doing and where you can grow, feedback is key.

But, when you need a coach and not an evaluator, asking for (or giving) advice can be much more effective for daily growth.


2019 Research