This post was prompted by Jurgen Appelo’s excellent post on giving a Feedback Wrap on Forbes.
I really like this post as it gives you an extremely useful way to express feedback in a manner that will help the receiver actually take action. It also helps them become aware of future behaviors they may need to change.
Giving good feedback is important, whether it is to superiors, subordinates, or peers. Like Jurgen, I won’t claim to be perfect at doing this and more than once, I know I have provided useless and sometimes hurtful feedback. So to provide a bit of additonal advice as a wrapper around what Jurgen is recommending, I wanted to share an acronym I learned at Culture Camp DC 2012 from Chad Wolfsheimer of the Motley Fool. The acronym is TWEET; here’s how it breaks down:
Take note of impact
This part is recognizing a meaning to the behavior you want to give feedback on; what is this behavior doing to you, others, a team, and/or the organization. If there isn’t any impact (or perhaps if it truly is trivial), then ask yourself is this feedback going to be useful?
Write down (organize thoughts)
Chad recommends writing down your thoughts, but he did offer up that due to the necessary timing you may not have this opportunity. None-the-less, take a mental step back and organize how you plan to present it; non-organized feedback will come across as a rambling complaint and not achieve what you want. Using Jurgen’s Feedback Wrap technique is an excellent way to do this.
Before jumping and giving feedback, try to understand the context the other person may have. Empathy in this case is not only what they may be feeling emotionally, but also what their mental model may be on why they are exhibiting the behaviors they are. Trying to understand this may help give you insight into how to deliver it so that it is received well.
design it be Effective
Using the Feedback wrap as guidance to organizing it and any insights you may have gained through empathizing, think through how the delivery can be made effective. After all, if the feedback is ignored or it spawns a defensive mechanism, it probably won’t likely alter the behavior you want changed.
Time it appropriately
We’ve heard how feedback should be timely; Chad recommends and I agree to think about timing. Often just after the behavior is exhibited is the right time, but at other times it may be worth making a determination as to the most appropriate time to deliver the feedback to maximize its reception.
On top of the two great ways to look at feedback that Jurgen and Chad have presented, I also recommend including inquiry. Asking a few key questions can help you both empathize AND open up the recipient’s mind about the behavior you want to change. Be careful what questions you ask though; for example ‘Why’ questions may put the recipient on the defensive. Try and use open-ended questions as well as this prompts some thinking. Here’s an example of a question that may work –
After you presented your critique of John’s database design, what did you notice about people’s reactions, and in particular John’s, to your statements?
If the person you are providing feedback hadn’t noticed anything, this question may prompt them to think through what may have been happening and help the recipient self-realize the impact. This makes your job much easier.
I’d avoid the following –
Did you notice how people felt dejected, and in particular John, after you critiqued his database design?
While that may be indeed what you noticed, it is your own mental model that produced that. Even if your recipient might come to the same conclusion, this closed question places her or him on the defensive and not in a place for self-reflection of their behaviors.
I hope you found this post useful, if you have any tips or tricks you use in giving feedback, feel free to leave a comment or tweet at me!