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Soaring Via Feedback.
The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. Edition 169
To grow one needs to continuously improve.
A key ingredient to improvement is feedback.
Feedback however is both difficult to give and receive.
In fact the words “feedback”, and “performance review” are being replaced by words such as “feedforward” and “connect sessions”
In addition, there is a concern that criticism may be taken as a form of insensitivity or discrimination as companies rightly focus on ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion.
We all love to linger in cuddle puddles and be sprayed with showers of reinforcement that builds our self-confidence. But, we are living in a competitive world where a lack of feedback could leave us stuck in place as others enhance skills and address issues.
Feedback can be given in ways that are humane, sensitive and caring but also with enough clarity to enable everyone to keep growing.
The six steps to giving better feedback.
Best practices suggest that there are six approaches that can help people give and accept feedback:
1.Focus on how the task or the process could have been improved rather than criticize the person: By focusing on how an assignment could be done better the emphasis is in on the product and not the person.
2. Compare the shortfalls to a higher standard that might have been met on another project or another time: By recalling assignments or times where the individual or team did a great job, one reinforces to the person or team that they are capable of having done better. The emphasis is on what was less than ideal on this occasion versus rather than believing the individual or team is incapable of doing a good job.
3. Be sensitive and aware of extenuating circumstances: We all have bad days and many times these are a result of something else distracting us or worrying us in our lives. It may be illness, family issues or other challenges. By empathizing with an individual and wondering if there is a reason quality has slipped indicates both concern and humanity.
4. Provide input as specific as possible as to what could be done better: Pointing out what went wrong or was less than optimal is only one half of feedback. The more important half is showing or teaching or guiding on how one can improve. Identify either steps or training or changes that need to be made.
5. Identify the next opportunity or project for a do-over or try another take: By showing both how one can improve and then identifying an upcoming opportunity to put the feedback to work concentrates the mind and channels emotions to action and the possibility of correcting the shortfall.
6. Provide personal help and perspective: If feedback is provide with examples of how the person providing feedback or other leaders have learned and improved, it signals that mistakes, mess-ups, and other shortfalls are par for the course in career growth. By also asking how you can help reinforces that you are on the persons side and are committed to building them to be better versus tearing them down.
Kim Scott was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google and her book Radical Candor provides a great framework for feedback.
I had Kim Scott on my What Next? podcast and it is a must listen. Recently I had an other opportunity to interview Kim and she is not a fan of “feed forward”. Listen and you will be much better at giving feedback with radical candor where one combines caring personally with direct challenges.
Direct caring feedback on writing better presentations.
Most if all of us spend time writing and giving presentations.
We often focus on what we put in versus what people take out.
My friend Mark Achler is among many things a very successful venture capitalist who has often been asked on how to write a great pitch deck. After thinking about it for a while Mark put together a wonderful seven minute video on why the best presentations marry essence, empathy and emotion.
His advice is for anyone who writes presentations to sell or convince anybody not just investors. Listen to Mark not just for substance but the style with which he communicates and provides feedback!
Three ways of ensuring one is getting feedback
While we learn how to give feedback and not be scared of receiving feedback, how can we ensure that we get feedback?
1. Scan for signals: People are constantly providing feedback even if they are not vocalizing it. In some instances, you may gauge it in numerical signals from how well your writing is read, reacted to, or shared or whether you are invited to key meetings. Other times it is to watch facial and body language. You learn a lot by reading a room or a Zoom gallery.
2. Ask for feedback on a regular basis: One can do this with three simple questions framed in ways that ensure people are comfortable helping you since they are positive in tone:
a. What worked well?
b. If/when I do this next time what could be better?
c. Who do you think does what I need to do well and where can I learn more?
3. End of Day or Week Self Review: Most people know in their gut what worked or went well and what did not. Many successful individuals end the day or week with some variation of a quick three step review :
a. The Work: What went well with my work product that I feel proud about and what could have gone better?
b. The Team: What felt good and productive in the way I interacted with people and where could I have been better in some ways in handling my or someone else’s emotions.
c. The Improvement: What little improvement did I manage to make today or this week? A new habit. Learning a new approach. Strengthening a relationship.
We get better not by being better than other people but aiming to being better than we were yesterday. Every day.
To do so it is critical to help our teams and ourselves with feedback.
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Photography by Rishad Tobaccowala
Rishad Tobaccowala helps grow companies, teams and leaders by helping them see, think and feel differently. Forty years of experience delivered through writing, speaking and advising in ways that are actionable and inspirational. For more about Rishad Tobaccowala click here.