As part of my Professional Development, I added the following objective to my list for this year:
Improve and Better Demonstrate People Skills of Communication and Leadership
Being a better communicator will lead to better/more valuable conversations. This can build trust, improve interpersonal and team-wide relationships, and help build collaborative and engaged teams.
This is something that I was told I could improve on, when I put myself forward for the Director of Engineering role, last year. So I made this a focus of my Professional Development.
Two of the Key Results, or tasks, really, are to complete the two Culture Amp Skills Coach courses on Feedback. (Please note that you have to sign up for a paid plan to be able to access the skills coaching tool.)
A while ago, I already did the Coaching course, and found it really good. So I decided to do the Feedback ones now.
In this post, I’d like to summarize what I learned, and share whether I found the courses useful.
Feedback is person A sharing their thoughts and perception of one or more of person B’s actions. It’s about the impact these actions had on person A, or someone else. Feedback can either be for person B, or it can be about person B and shared with some other person. Ideally, feedback is constructive, which means the intention is to help person B improve one or several things.
Feedback Is Not Positive vs. Negative
On day 2 already, I learned to (re-)frame what you could think of as “negative” feedback in a different way. One that resonated really well with me.
Feedback can either be reinforcing—you want the recipient to continue doing that thing—or it can be redirecting—you want the recipient to stop doing that thing, and ideally direct them to some other thing they could try and do instead. But it’s always positive.
Looking at and thinking about it like that is really powerful, in my opinion.
We all give feedback, a lot. Some of it is ad hoc, others is well-prepared. Some is requested—either by the person that the feedback is about, or by someone else such as their manager—others is unsolicited. There’s a lot around giving and receiving feedback that we all sort of know and do, but maybe never really thought about.
Oftentimes, feedback that is considered unclear includes what the course calls “blur” words. This means some or all of the feedback needs to be interpreted, or that it is not specific enough, and not actionable.
Instead of sharing an abstract action or behavior, it might be much more understandable, and thus actionable, to share a specific situation in which you witnessed the behavior.
Behavior, Impact, Question
One step further is to give structured feedback, by following the BIQ feedback model, where “BIQ” means “Behavior, Impact, Question”.
Essentially, you would build out your feedback by starting with the behavior (or action) you saw—be objective, and don’t make assumptions. Next, you would focus on the impact, and share what the consequence of the behavior was, and for whom. Lastly, you would ask a question to open the dialog with the recipient.
Asking for Permission to Give Feedback
While maybe more relevant for redirecting feedback, it’s always a good idea to ask if and when you can give feedback to someone. In doing so, you allow for them to be prepared, in the right state of mind, and actually have time and space to process and dig in on the feedback. Also, this emphasizes your (good) intention and the value of your feedback.
As with the feedback itself, be specific about what you want to do. Tell the recipient what you would like to give feedback about, and maybe also share an estimate for the time required to do so. This will help the recipient even more to be well-prepared.
While the bulk of the Feedback course (i.e., 15 of the 20 days) is about giving feedback, the last five days focus on the other side: receiving feedback.
Asking for Feedback
By default, receiving feedback is not “easy”. This is because it will, most of the times, surface something you are not doing to the best of your ability. However, thinking about this as positive, redirecting feedback, it should be or become easier. It’s for the better, and not to criticize you.
Receiving feedback is a skill, and like any other, you need to practice it. By asking for feedback—for a specific task, a project, a workshop, or any other thing you did to or for someone else—you can get used to receiving feedback. And provided the feedback you receive is “good”, as in sensible and actionable, you (can) improve. This is a great thing, right?
As part of the course, I once asked for feedback on a specific behavior and situation in my then-current project. The feedback I received was, while sort of ad hoc, super valuable nonetheless. It confirmed some thoughts and hopes I had, but it also went beyond what I thought about, and touched on some other, related things. Try it.
I did the Feedback course first, and I really liked it! It is spot on, doesn’t take too much time, it is very relateable, understandable and actionable. And it’s not strange or over-the-top. It is stating (or repeating) a lot of things that are common knowledge, which means some good reminders about important things here and there. It also explains some of the things you know and already do, and provides some examples for non-ideal and better ways to plan, structure, deliver and discuss feedback.
The Essential Feedback course is something like a distilled version of the Feedback one. When I did them, I didn’t know that. And if I had, I might have done the second one after a bit of time, like 3 months or so.
If you want to do both, I think you can do them in any order. Either, you get the full scope first, and then some reminders on the most important (or essential) parts of it. Or you start with the essentials, and then go deep, while repeating the important bits.
You Should Do One of These Courses!
I didn’t go into too much detail here, on purpose, because maybe you are able and willing to do one of these courses yourself!
It doesn’t eat up a lot of your time, you can decide when and how you do the course or the “days” anyway—it doesn’t have to be daily—and I’m positive you will find some value in the course, and be able to apply one or the other thing naturally in your day-to-day, without trying too hard.
But please let me know if you disagree—once you did the course, of course.