AS A busy professional 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 conducting business with relative strangers or trusted partners.

This resource is feedback, and it is a marketing tool worth its weight in gold if mined consistently and effectively.

While many professionals spend time assimilating, assessing and acting upon information after a project or event, relatively little time is spent reviewing, re-evaluating, and reorganising information during the project or event.

Those who want to stay ahead in this ever-changing information age do not see constant and comprehensive feedback as a luxury, but as a necessity.

Here are some tips on acquiring quality feedback:

Take the initiative

Most people mistakenly assume that feedback will automatically appear on their desks or in their e-mail. While they are sitting on their hands, more insightful and opportunistic professionals know that most feedback has to be extracted, digested and analysed.

Don’t leave the responsibility to others. This is your job, so take the initiative. You have too much to lose if you do not get feedback and much to gain if you do.

Ask the right people the right questions

Often, people solicit feedback from the wrong crowd or ask questions that are too vague, ending up with gossip and guesswork.

It is your responsibility to phrase your questions so others understand the content and scope of your request. Do you want general or detailed comments? Suggestions for the future or complaints about the past? Overall opinions or information on a few select areas?

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

Queue up with smart questions

After you have initiated the feedback and sought out the right people, interpret and analyse their response. 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 these 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 or define things more clearly? Did you need to bring demos?

If you don’t probe deeper into unclear feedback, you will 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 respondent in a position to know what he 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.