The importance of feedback for consultants

For independent contributors, contractors or consultants, gauging performance in the eyes of the project lead can be challenging without formal structures typical of permanent employees. If you’re a consultant like me, understanding your performance on a client assignment is crucial. For the benefit of both the consultant and the organisation, soliciting and providing feedback is essential. Doing so not only improves individual performance but also enhances project outcomes.

Why should organisations provide feedback?

Feedback is essential for the smooth running of a project. When consultants know the areas in which they excel, they can focus on providing more of those. On the flip side, if certain areas need changes, they work towards improving them. Providing feedback is a win-win.

Who should consultants ask for feedback?

Feedback is most valuable from those you’ve closely collaborated with. This could include members of the UCD team, the wider project team, project leads, project sponsors, and hiring managers. Essentially, anyone engaged enough with the project or familiar with your contributions can provide insightful feedback. However, not everyone will have the time, so it’s wise to have an extensive list to guarantee a good response rate.

How to efficiently gather feedback

I use Google Forms to gather feedback. They are user-friendly, free, and offer the advantage of anonymous feedback. Anonymity encourages candidness in responses.

When framing your feedback request, remember:

  • Keep it short, taking no more than 5-10 minutes to complete.
  • Limit to a maximum of 5 questions, ensuring each has a clear purpose.
  • Ask questions that the respondents can confidently answer.

Types of questions to ask

My survey is always three questions long.

I always include two vital questions; about my strengths and areas for improvement. Framing the latter positively, such as “How can I be even better?” fosters constructive feedback.

When should consultants seek feedback?

It’s beneficial to solicit feedback during the project, as this allows for timely adjustments. However, when you are deep in the weeds of project delivery, especially with tight deadlines, it can be difficult to remember to come up for air, reflect and evaluate. So at the very least, I recommend requesting feedback towards the end of a project.

Feedback towards the end of a project ensures the consultant understands whether they’ve met client objectives. I usually request end-of-project feedback in the final weeks, rather than at the very end. Being physically present ensures people are reminded of my request for feedback when they see me, enhancing their likelihood of completing it.

My proposed framework for feedback in projects

For optimal results, every new project should ideally have a structure for gathering feedback. Giving feedback should be straightforward for the organisation if it takes 5-10 minutes. Providing feedback during the project enables the organisation to use my capabilities fully, ensuring I understand where I can offer the most value.

When to ask for feedback during a project lifecycle

The length and complexity of a project will influence when I would request feedback for future projects. For longer projects, I would request feedback at three intervals: one-third of the way in, two-thirds through, and towards the project’s conclusion.

The 3 points to ask for feedback during a project lifecycle

Setting this expectation early, I’d inform the project lead about my feedback strategy, ensuring they know my proactive intent to regularly gauge if I’m on the right track. Getting feedback at various stages throughout the project ensures that those around me see the value to the project as a whole. This adds to my own personal development and maximises my contribution and value to the team.

For shorter projects – I’d ask for feedback at fewer intervals.

Using feedback

Comparing personal evaluations with feedback from peers is enlightening. I integrate this feedback into subsequent projects, focusing on amplifying strengths and addressing improvement areas. While feedback’s anonymity can be a hurdle in direct discussions, there have been times when I could guess the contributor and discuss their insights.

Receiving feedback also boosts morale, and I’ve cherished many heartwarming remarks about my work.

In summary: giving feedback is mutually beneficial

Consultants regularly seeking feedback is invaluable. It not only aids in understanding strengths and areas of improvement but also serves as a morale booster for challenging days.

For hiring managers and project sponsors, offering feedback can significantly enhance project outcomes. The insights from feedback are also invaluable for consultants.

If you cross paths again, rest assured, equipped with your feedback, the consultant will perform even better next time.

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