I recently attended our Back2Base at Readify. It's a quarterly event where the whole company comes together at the head office for a day filled with talks, discussions and feedback. It really was a great event and I would like to share some information that I got from one of the talks entitled "How to give feedback painlessly and effortlessly".

While I have blogged before about giving feedback before, I did see lots of parallels to it but I did find some new nuggets of information, which I would like to share, as we'll as a new technique for giving feedback.

A Tale of Two Stories

The first thing to remember is that every story has two sides. Each person has their own perspective; their own lenses through which they see world in their own unique colour. In order to be an effective leader you need to understand and see that persons world view.

In the session, the following example that was given to us. We were to describe a simple glass which was on the table. Even though there was nothing special about it, there were numerous different answers given, such as:

• A glass half-filled with water
• A glass with fingerprints on it
• A container for hydrogen and oxygen

These answers just show you how varied and diverse we all are.

Constructive Feedback

Relationship Building

I would like to start off this section with a quote from Rob Crowley, one of the facilitators, that really struck a chord with me. It went as follows:

Relationships are almost always better when you give constructive criticism, yet we are afraid to do so.

This is so true! Before I left South Africa, I asked my team members to give me feedback on the following question, which I posed to them; "What is one thing that I should stop doing?" The feedback that I got from those conversations was extremely valuable, and in no way at all did it harm our relationship. (P.S. If any of you guys from SA are reading this, Yakshamesh ;)

Honest feedback doesn't break relationships, it builds them.

"But Why?"

If you ever give feedback, be sure to give the reason why you are giving them praise. This helps to reinforce the desired behavior so that people can continue doing this. Without the Why, the feedback is useless. For example, instead of saying "Well done on the presentation" you could say "Well done on the presentation. The examples you gave and the way you interacted with the crowd and made it funny was excellent!".

Tips & Nuggets

Before I end off this first part of the blog post I would like to leave you with some tips & nuggets I picked up from the session that I found valuable.

  • You can always spin the same story in a positive or negative context. For example, you could say "If we don't keep your code consistent, it will make it much harder to understand and slow us down" vs "If you keep your code consistent, we will be able to achieve our goals quicker". Essentially, the both mean the same thing, but they are two different approaches to get there.

  • The feedback you get at a performance review should never come as a surprise. It should have always been given before the time, and preferably as close as possible to when it occurred.

  • If left alone, overtime a small issues can compound and something huge, so the best time to fix things is now, which leads me to the following quote, which also quite liked:

Leaders are defined by what they walk past and ignore.

I hope you enjoyed this first part of this two-part series. In the next section, we will look at some of the steps we can do to give effective feedback.

Until next time…keep learning!