Research reported in the Harvard Business Review shows that asking for advice instead of feedback is more effective in eliciting actionable input and specific comments that may actually help to improve performance. It appears that “feedback” often is vague and focused on past performance whereas “advice” triggers forward-thinking that can help you in the future.

I totally agree! For example, the official university course evaluation asks questions about my performance as an instructor in the course that just concluded such as “The instructor demonstrated respect for students – strongly agree, agree, etc.” It requires a bit of guessing and inference as to how to apply the evaluation scores to my next course. Contrast that with the feedback form I personally administer that asks things like: “If you teach this course again, do/don’t _____ (something specific)”. I find the advice I receive to be much more direct and relevant to how I can alter my teaching.

The same principle applies to most settings where we are soliciting input. In your employee appraisals, are you providing just feedback or is there an ongoing opportunity to ask for/provide advice that can drive changes in behavior? In focus groups or on service evaluation forms, are you asking for vague feedback or could you re-word the questions to ask for advice as to what you could do differently or what you should continue to do? In relationships, can you ask for advice on how to be a more loving or helpful partner?

If you’re serious about utilizing the input you receive, my advice would be to reframe how you ask for it. Focus on obtaining specificity and advice that you can apply in the future rather than commentary about the past.

Source: Why Asking for Advice is More Effective Than Asking for Feedback by Jaewon Yoon, Hayley Blunded, Ariella Kristal, and Ashley Whillans, in Harvard Business Review, September 20, 2019



I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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