For busy professionals constantly balancing schedules, deadlines, and priorities while dealing with a vast variety of personalities, there is an often-neglected resource that can make the difference between success and failure and interacting with relative strangers or trusted partners.

The resource is feedback—and it's a business tool worth its weight in gold if mined consistently and effectively.

While many professionals spend time assimilating, assessing, and acting upon information after a meeting, workshop, or event, relatively little time is spent reviewing, reevaluating, and reorganizing information during the meeting, workshop, or event. Those who want to stay ahead in this ever-changing information age not only see constant and comprehensive feedback as a luxury but a necessity.

Take the initiative.

Most people mistakenly assume that feedback will automatically appear on their desk, in their e-mail, or in person. While they sit on their hands waiting and wondering, more insightful and opportunistic professionals know that most feedback has to be extracted, digested, and analyzed.

Don’t leave the responsibility to others. This is your job, so take the initiative.

Ask the Right People the Right Questions.

Many times it’s not that we don’t ask for feedback, it’s that we ask the wrong person or the wrong question—and we end up with gossip or guesswork.

We ask associates for information only supervisors would know, clients about things only associates would know, and supervisors for data only clients would know. To get the right response, you have to ask the right person.

It’s your responsibility to phrase your questions so others understand the content and scope of your request. Do you want general or specific information? Personal opinion or survey data? Selected input or overall consensus?

The more focused your requests, the more precise and comprehensive responses will be.

Queue Up with Smart Questions.

After you have initiated the feedback and sought out the right people, interpret and analyze what they’ve said. Does their feedback need your feedback?

“I was expecting more help from your support staff” or “I didn’t follow all the points of your presentation” are potentially helpful comments, but they need further explanation.

Was your staff unavailable? Unwilling to help? Or unaware they were needed?

Did you need to provide additional information in your presentation? Define things more clearly? Bring demos?

If you don’t probe deeper into unclear feedback, you’ll be left with mere complaints.

As with Medicine, Apply Liberally to the Affected Area.

After you solicit and understand specific feedback, evaluate it in light of your personal goals and methods.

Is it an accurate assessment or a subjective opinion? Is the person in a position to know what he or she is talking about? Is a change in your style or method worth the effort? Will this change contribute to your long-term personal or professional growth?

Granted, not all feedback is created equal. But don’t just stand there, do something. Evaluate. Reconsider. Modify. Reaffirm. But do something!

Author's Bio: 

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication. She is a keynote speaker and prolific author of more than 40 books, including her latest, The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know and Communicate with Confidence. Successful Meetings magazine has named her to its list of “21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century.” Dianna’s communication training firm, Booher Consultants, Inc., is based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex and serves many Fortune 500 clients. 800.342.6621