Do you work with other people? Do you create things that you want other people to use or ideas that you want other people to understand? Are you interested in self-improvement?
If you answered yes to any of these, then read on. One of the best ways to facilitate personal growth, collaboration, and team development is through a steady cadence of feedback.
I started this journey for myself, along with my team, a couple years ago and have discovered great rewards. In doing so, I discovered a matrix of approaches that can be leveraged for different purposes.
What it looks like
There is a matrix of at least 7 characteristics that can be mixed and matched for a wide variety of approaches to feedback.
Direction: give | receive
Feedback goes either one direction or the other; is either given to someone or received from someone.
Intent: positive | constructive
Positive intent typically describes what worked. Constructive intent typically focuses on what didn’t work. It’s common to provide a little of both, but not necessary, particularly with an informal style of feedback.
Style: formal | informal
Formal style is often written feedback and in so doing can be used to document for further review or to track progress. Feedback delivered via survey is also more formal in style.Informal style can often be verbal. A quick aside in the hallway or at someone’s desk, for instance.
Informal feedback can also be provided in written form, such as a brief email or instant message.
Origination: solicited | unsolicited
Feedback may be asked for (solicited) or it may be delivered without asking for it (unsolicited). Depending on your team culture, it may be more comfortable to start with one approach over another. Unsolicited feedback may require more trust and comfort level. But the more comfortable a team is with each other, the more likely you’ll have a mix of both, or even skew toward unsolicited feedback.
Range: individual | team
Feedback range can be focused toward a single individual, or it may also span as wide as an entire team. For example, a consultancy may ask their clients for feedback on their team after a project is complete.
Altitude: project performance | career performance
Feedback can fly at different altitudes. Project performance or the day-to-day level of feedback is more focused on details. The purpose here is about fine-tuning. It should be more immediate. When something positive or otherwise is noticed, the sooner feedback happens, the better.
For managers, directors and mentors it is particularly important to offer project level feedback to set expectations and help build up to the higher-level, more infrequent career performance feedback. Quarterly or annual career performance feedback without more frequent project performance feedback makes it more difficult to build and see progress. And it can be more daunting for recipients of such feedback when it is given so infrequently.
Function: between like disciplines | from one discipline to another
Feedback can occur between members of the same function or role. This will likely be focused on the craft, as it is a conversation between professionals that do similar types of work.
Feedback shared between those who don’t share the same function or role may include feedback from your direct report, feedback from a client, or feedback from another member of your cross-functional team.
Let’s try out a few examples
For instance, you may give informal, unsolicited feedback to a fellow designer on your team regarding a recent client presentation they led. This takes little preparation on your part and helps your teammate quickly understand a point of view, which can help them in their next presentation.
Or you may ask to receive formal feedback from several members of your cross-functional team on your accomplishments in the past quarter. This feedback is at a higher altitude in terms of the type of performance you’re asking for feedback on. It covers more time (3 months) and takes more time to prepare. Both for you and for those you’ve asked for feedback.
Perhaps you may receive unsolicited, informal, constructive feedback about your performance on a project from a team member who does not share a similar function or role as you do. Sometimes this type of feedback may scare, frustrate or annoy the average person. But this may provide some of the most valuable, candid perspectives that help you grow. Reacting positively to such feedback keeps the lines of communication open and strengthens your cross-functional relationships.
Who it’s for
Simply put, feedback is for everyone! Particularly when it is done with mutual respect and an understanding that both parties are approaching it with the best of intentions.
Benefits of feedback
Most recently, I experienced the positive benefits of feedback when I solicited feedback from a relatively new team I was working with. This was not part of a regular review cycle. It was simply rooted in my own interest for where I stand, what contributions were most valuable to my teammates, and where I am going next.
I sent an email to 8 team members asking if they were interested in providing feedback on my contributions for the past 3 months. I gave them the choice to reply via a 15-minute survey, a 30-minute in-person discussion, or to opt out completely.
First, I had a very willing response. All but one responded. And all preferred to go the 30-minute conversation route. I had already prepared my questions for what I thought would be the survey, so I sent the questions ahead of our individual 1:1’s so everyone felt prepared.
Each of the sessions helped uncover a particular strength from the variety of work that I was doing, which was workshop facilitation. Even though I was working hard on that part of my craft, I was unsure where I stood. We all know how our internal voice can get in the way and confuse us over reality.
So, these feedback sessions helped to ground me in reality. They helped me understand where I needed to put more of my attention. They also helped me find parts of my work that I can prune. Areas where I didn’t need to focus my attention on, where they weren’t providing much value to the team. What a strong opportunity for my own professional growth and development.
The experience of hearing this feedback from the team energized me and got me focused on what I want to do more of. It also strengthened my relationship with the team. And, it created a positive chain reaction, where others on the team decided to ask for feedback themselves!
I’ve found that both giving and receiving feedback can help:
- Strengthen communication
- Mitigate frustration or tension
- Challenge oneself
- Keep one’s team at the top of their game
- Appreciate other perspectives
- Anchor oneself to something real, without guessing
- Improve the way one approaches their work
- Increase one’s overall level of happiness
Why it’s important
We (humans) are dynamic beings. We are always learning and we are always growing. This can’t happen in a vacuum. Feedback is an excellent way to understand and share multiple points of view, in the spirit of growth and development.
Promoting a feedback-driven culture
As they say “be the change you want to see”. The best way to bring the benefits of feedback into your daily work is to start offering and asking for feedback yourself. Try out the various approaches in this article. Some approaches will require very little of your, or others’ time. Some will need more preparation.
When you do get feedback, especially if unsolicited, thank the person who gave you that feedback. Seriously. Make a big deal out of it. If you see an exchange of feedback among team members, applaud it. With just a little bit of social fuel, feedback can scale into a foundational cultural practice on your team and in your organization.
Thanks for reading! I will be following up with more articles soon on techniques for giving and receiving feedback, particularly how to give and receive difficult constructive feedback. So be on the lookout for more. Got feedback for me on this topic or article? Contact me here.
More excellent points of view on feedback:
Feedback is a Gift by Rebecca Bowring via Medium
Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss by First Round Review via First Round
Candor is Hard – The 4 Psychological Barriers to a Healthy Team-Feedback Culture by Eli Holder via Nodd & Smile
Level Up Your Organization with the Growth Feedback Framework by Earl Lee via FiscalNote