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Episode 2: Offering Feedback Well

podcast Jan 11, 2022

"We just finished a big event. Some things went well and others we need to improve. How do I offer feedback? Especially the corrective feedback?"

Let’s start by asking three questions to help you find YOUR way of offering feedback. (1) What is the purpose of your feedback? (2) How will it be helpful? (3) What do they need from you to receive the feedback well? 

What is the purpose of your feedback?

Embedded in the question, you’ve got a two-fold purpose already stated – highlighting what went well and what to improve. Now what I’m curious about is what makes communicating those two things really important to you? There’s a big ole “why” behind your feedback that  likely points to an organizational value or a personal one. When values are clear you are going to see evidence of them show up in what you do.

How will the feedback be helpful?

I was on a team for a volunteer appreciation event for our 1,200 volunteers. Those of us on the team put in a lot of creative energy and a TON of hours to make it happen on that Saturday night. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than we expected. Then, came Monday morning debrief with all the staff. You know the meeting when we spend 5 minutes talking about what went well and then 25 minutes talking about all the things that we could do better. I looked around the room and watched those staff in the circle who had worked on the event. This tired team sank in their chairs. And the 25 minute part of the conversation was mostly feedback from the people who hadn’t spent the time and energy pulling off the event.

I share that story because to be helpful, feedback needs to come from the right people in the right doses. It's not that the feedback of all the staff wasn’t helpful, it just wasn’t helpful in high doses. And the “right” people are really the volunteers that were served by the event and also the people that worked the event. 

What do they need to receive feedback well?

We typically give feedback in our own communication style – it’s our natural tendency. 

If you can step back and ask the question – what do they need? It can change the conversation. It’s definitely more work to push yourself out of your natural way of communicating, but it can make ALL the difference in how feedback is received.

I use an activity that divides the group into four communication styles and ask them to come up with an affirmation for the communication style that is their “opposite.” It sounds easy – but it’s REALLY hard to do. Stretch yourself and give it a try the next time you have something to communicate – even if it’s not feedback.

Three Kinds of Feedback

Asking questions to get clear on all three (the why, the how, the who) is a great place to start. With all that in mind, there is more than one kind of feedback to offer. One resource that I love on this topic is the book Thanks for the Feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. 

Distinguishing the kind of feedback you want to give could make your conversation easier. The three types the book talks about are evaluation, coaching and appreciation.

Evaluation Feedback

Evaluation feedback measuring against some standard or expectation. It can be seen as corrective because you are giving feedback on what does and doesn’t meet the standard. We tend to be more “scared” of this kind of feedback. And, yet, most people really want to know where they stand and in the absence of evaluation feedback they will fill in the gaps with their own assumptions. 

Coaching Feedback

A lot of feedback, though, can fall into the coaching feedback category. Especially for an event that creates an opportunity to develop leadership, decision-making or problem solving skills in your team. And as you try to develop skills or experiment with new responsibilities, coaching feedback might actually be a better choice. You might offer suggestions or share experiences, but the primary goal is to ask questions to give them the opportunity to identify their own gaps and design their own plan for growth.

Appreciation Feedback

Going back to the story I shared about the volunteer appreciation event, what was needed in that situation was more appreciation feedback and less evaluation feedback. Appreciation feedback says “I see you.” “I know how hard you have been working” “You matter to me.” I knew when I saw the hard-working team sinking into their chairs and slouching their shoulders that what they really needed was a different kind of feedback than they were getting. 

Imagine the power of all three kinds of feedback working together when you offer feedback on your event – listen into the podcast audio and hear some examples you might use of all three types of feedback.

If you have a question about feedback OR any other leadership questions that come to mind, submit it HERE! Let’s dig into those real-life, feet-on-the-ground kinds of questions!

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