Two women sit across from one another at a table. The woman facing the viewer has long brown hair and is wearing a brown long-sleeved shirt. She has her elbows on the table and her hands folded, and she is smiling at the other woman. The woman facing away from the viewer has shirt dark hair and is wearing a light gray short-sleeved shirt and gold hoop earrings. Her expression cannot be seen, but she is gesturing with her hands.
When asking for feedback from your peers, be specific. Ask for their perspective on projects you've recently completed or traits and behaviors you want to strengthen. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

Peer feedback can often be one of the most valuable ways to improve your performance. This source of insight can be more straightforward than feedback offered by managers in formal reviews. Your colleagues see your work style day in and day out and therefore have a clearer picture of ways in which you can improve. To ask for feedback from your work peers, follow these tips.

Explain your motivation

Some people find the act of giving feedback to be uncomfortable. What if you take their input the wrong way?

Help ease their concerns by explaining why you’re asking for their help. Not only can this open the door to an honest conversation, but it can also direct their feedback to be more relevant to your professional goals.

“Before your one-on-one, be sure to explain to your colleagues why you’re looking for feedback. Maybe you feel like you’re professionally lacking when compared to your peers. Maybe you’ve just come off a big assignment and you want to know how to be a better team player,” wrote RallyBright. “Whatever your motivations, spell them out from the beginning.”

Ask in real time

Timely feedback is the best kind of feedback since it enables you to course-correct and adjust sooner rather than waiting for an annual review. And because peer feedback can be more informal, it’s more appropriate to ask for feedback on the fly. Don’t be shy about asking for insight right after a meeting or at the end of a project sprint.

“Don’t think of it as sitting down to have an official conversation,” said Sheila Heen, author of "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well." “Just reach out to your boss, colleagues, or clients and have a very quick and informal coaching exchange.”

If you’re looking for feedback on your overall work performance, it might be more appropriate to schedule a sit-down meeting with your peers. But to get information about a project that just wrapped or a deliverable you just submitted, try to ask for feedback as soon as possible.

[Read more: Are You a Good Listener? Your Employees Sure Hope So]

Before your one-on-one, be sure to explain to your colleagues why you’re looking for feedback.

Celia Daniels, RallyBright

Ask specific questions

Prepare questions ahead of time to help guide the conversation and get the information you need. Specific questions will prompt better feedback from your colleagues, especially those who have never given formal feedback before. Consider asking questions such as:

  • Can you think of any ways that I can change or improve my communication with you and the team?
  • What’s one thing I could have done better in that meeting or presentation?
  • How did that [meeting, presentation, etc.] go from your perspective? What’s something I could have done differently?

Follow these questions by asking your colleague to provide specific examples. Try to avoid ending up with vague answers by asking the person to explain what they mean. This is your time to get actionable insights into ways you can improve!

[Read more: 7 Tools for Conducting Employee Reviews]

React professionally

Well-intentioned feedback can still be hard to take in. However, remember that your colleague is trying to be constructive, even though their delivery might be a bit off. If the feedback you receive is critical or negative, take a moment before responding. You may want to sleep on what they’ve said to separate your personal feelings from their input.

Remember, you don’t have to take the feedback they give you. You can simply thank them for their input and carry on working together as before. The one exception is if you feel unreasonably singled out by their criticism. If you do feel like what a peer said was discriminatory, make sure to speak to a neutral third party (like HR) to make others aware of the issue.

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