Now that we’ve established why we need good feedback, our first step to creating a feedback loop is to figure out where feedback should come from. The challenge here is that your most readily available feedback sources are probably the worst. These are your family and close friends.
With few exceptions, the people you’re close to will have their own loving (or not-so-loving) motivations for telling you either what you want to hear or about their opinions regarding your goals. A parent who thinks their child should drop out of drama school and “get a real job” isn’t going to be a good source of professional feedback.
Fortunately, you’ve laid some groundwork. You’ve got the people you talked to when you were making plans, the experts and old hands whom you interviewed and, presumably, developed a basic relationship with. If they refuse to be involved further, don’t take it personally, but don’t be shy to ask. Odds are they’ll be impressed (and flattered) you’re actually acting on their advice.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Before and after you go through your notes to pick out possibilities, don’t forget to have a brainstorming session or two, and don’t be afraid to put down some dream names. It’s not a good idea to count on Bill Gates to meet you for coffee, but maybe writing down his name on your list will lead to ideas about people you can contact.
Say you’re trying to lose 60 pounds to get your blood pressure low enough to get off medication. You write down Oprah Winfrey as a dream, and then you remember you have a friend who loves Oprah and lost several pants sizes. Write down your friend’s name.
Step 2: Reach out
This list is useless until you start contacting people, so plan this out just like everything else. If the next name on the list is someone you spoke to before, how do they prefer to be contacted? Do they hate texts and appreciate calls? Can you approach them directly, or do you need to make an appointment?
Keep a log of people you intend to contact, their preferred contact method, contact information, and scheduled meeting times.
Step 3: Respect Their Time and Attention
Never forget that people offering feedback are doing you a service and owe you nothing. Let them choose places and times to meet. Offer to buy coffee. Be punctual, be open about what you want, stay on topic, and if you’re using a worksheet, especially over the phone, send them a copy so they know what’s going on.
Step 4: Thank Them
Apart from something small, like coffee, do not respond to the other person with too much gratitude, or too little, even if they gave you great news, or they said something you didn’t like to hear.
Fortunately, Western society has long ago dealt with how to show gratitude in a classy, not-too-familiar way: thank-you notes. Buy a pack of professional-looking cards and promptly send a hand-written missive to their professional address thanking them for their time and effort.