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Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback

by Mark Levison on Aug 25, 2009 |

On Monday the first day of Agile 2009, Liz Keogh, gave session Giving and receiving effective feedback. The session was based around the different kinds of feedback that a fictional character George receives:

  • A glowing report of praise
  • A balanced report with some suggestions for the future
  • An unconstructive and possibly unfair review
  • The same review, rewritten after attending this feedback workshop.

Liz guided the audience in discussions around the feedback. She explained that feedback that is only full of praise doesn’t help the recipient learn anything new or grow. It encourages a person to say in the same position for ever. On the other hand when the person moves to a new position they’re likely to receive less happy feedback at first as they learn the new skills for the role. In this case its important that the feedback include the positive things that the person shouldn’t change and not just the negative. In George’s case the negative feedback was so poisonous it was clear that the person providing it was trying to push George out of the way and take his job. It really spoke more about the person giving the feedback than it did about George.

The group had a lively discussion around the samples:

  • Feedback should be given directly and not via a manager.
  • Talking Face to Face is safer for both parties than providing feedback in writing

Several strategies were suggested if you’re giving feedback to someone who is in position above you or has been in conflict with you. Ask for their help, saying “I need your help, we’re struggling with …”, take ownership of the problem, make it about the problem and not the parties. Finally a strategy that can weaken a person if overused – Admit fault publicly. 

Qualities of Good Feedback

  • Is about the recipient and not the person giving feedback
  • Is only from the point of the person giving feedback and not any third parties
  • Addressed directly to the recipient
  • Includes the things that the person giving the feedback values and not just areas for improvement
  • Makes suggestions and doesn’t just complain
  • Uses examples and doesn’t speak about generalities
  • Talks about things you’ve seen and heard i.e. instead of saying “the whole team was happy with your presentation”, say “the whole team smiled after your presentation”
  • Talks about the impact on you
  • Asks the recipient for help in making any changes that need to be made
  • End with a bright future, the positive goal that everyone is working towards

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