Giving feedback seems like such a simple thing to do, but many people struggle in the workplace to give any real feedback. To create an empowering environment, a subtle but critical component is giving feedback to each other: peers, superiors and direct reports. It can be unpleasant for even the most experienced people, but it is critical to learn how to take and give feedback in order to compensate for one’s blind spots. I rarely receive constructive, detailed feedback from people, however, I recently did and wanted to share this feedback and talk about my learning.
A very experienced direct report with whom I have a good relationship, recently pointed out how I used a word in an email that could have been taken as a way to undermine him. I asked for an “independent” review of some business case numbers that he had provided. Words are powerful, both for supporting people, but also opposing people. He was right that I shouldn’t have written the email to create doubt in his calculations. I didn’t mean it that way, but words can have different subtle meanings from different perspectives.
Secondly, I implied that he and another employee might not have considered a large risk situation in the business case. He again correctly pointed out that I could have said that I trusted that they would work with legal to keep our risk limited. I wasn’t really aware of this one and it was a great point that he made so that I can do better next time.
Later in the email, he mentioned an incident that happened back in January where I said in front of a larger group that “he didn’t come across as trustworthy”. Now I do often needle this employee from time to time, but it was definitely something that I shouldn’t have said even if it was in a less serious point of our meeting.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember the specific situation and that’s one of the key lessons that I’ve learned over the years: provide feedback about things on your mind as close to when they happen as possible. The two reasons are that the feedback recipient will better remember the situation and the feedback giver won’t have it on their chest for a long time.
There was other feedback in the email as well, however I won’t share that with everyone, but rather will respond directly to the employee. And take the opportunity to give some overdue feedback as well.
One other thing that I’ve recently learned is that it’s easier to give and receive feedback when not qualifying the feedback and negative or constructive or positive. Spending time putting the feedback into buckets causes the recipient to make the feedback session bigger than it really is. The agile method is a great source of inspiration in your own feedback journey because feedback is so central to the success of an agile team. It’s all just feedback and saying so makes it easier to give… and receive!
What have you learned about giving or receiving feedback? Let me know!