Episode #4: Dealing with Feedback

In this episode we dive into feedback. Dealing with feedback and giving it to others is something a shitload of young people struggle with, so I decided to make an episode on it.

So I start this episode by saying I’m gonna attempt to keep it below 20 minutes long… and of course we end up at 28 minutes. Oh well.

I used to be terrible at delivering feedback – mainly because my ego convinced me that I was the best at what I was doing and therefore I shouldn’t listen to others.

I learned quickly that I’d never actually become as good as I thought I already was if I didn’t learn to receive and get feedback.

I used to get emotional about feedback. I used to be afraid of the opinion of others in the context of my own work. I overcame this by realizing that no one was going to be as hard on me as I was on myself, especially in the context of working on something that I loved doing.

Importance of Feedback

Feedback = information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

If you want to get good at anything in life, feedback is critical.

Feedback is essential to personal and professional growth and the earlier you learn to deal with giving it and receiving it, the better.

Any good leader out there understands the value of positive and negative feedback. If you want to “make it” – regardless of what industry, profession or country you’re in, you’re going to need to master feedback.

General Notes for Feedback

Always try to give and receive feedback in private. Giving it in private allows the person you’re giving feedback to, to process it appropriately and ask questions that may be sensitive. Receiving it in private allows you to do the same.

Timing is important to. Don’t deliver feedback in the middle of an emotional episode. Of course, this depends on the scenario – I’m referring to the kind of feedback you might receive about your work, about yourself, about your performance. When you’re gathering feedback in the context of a product, you want to capture the raw emotion, but that’s for a different episode.

Always have feedback in writing, but try to deliver it in person as much as you can. So if you’re receiving feedback – take notes. If you’re giving it, summarize the points in an email and send that to whoever you’re giving feedback to. I wish I had started doing this earlier in my work. Having things in writing makes it easy to refer to in the future but also allows you to track your own development. You can take those notes and share them with others and get their perspective on what you can improve.

Receiving Feedback

First of all, understand that feedback is the best source of information you’re going to get to improve yourself with. Feedback can be related to your performance, to your growth, to your attitude, to your professionalism.

Since feedback can be so broad, you should actively monitor the kind of feedback you’re receiving.

You should also actively monitor the sources you’re getting feedback from. Your superiors, your peers, mentors, friends – those are all sources of feedback.

You should also be intentional in who you get feedback from. I generally don’t recommend family or super close friends as sources of feedback because they tend to not give you the whole truth in an attempt to not hurt your feelings. Some feedback is going to hurt – is supposed to hurt – it’s part if the growing pains of improving in any context. Therefore, make sure your sources of feedback are always honest with you and stay as objective as possible for your sake.

As mentioned before, take notes. Read those notes. Turn those notes into action points to improve. Compare your feedback from 2 different sources and check if there’s a trend. If there’s an overlap in the the feedback, then something you’ve done is notifiable, so you should probably focus there, regardless of whether it’s good feedback or negative feedback.

What should I do if I don’t actively receive feedback from anyone?

Ask for it. Seek it out specifically. If you want to grow, you need it. If no one around you is willing to give you feedback, evaluate your situation – why won’t they give you feedback? If there’s nothing to give you feedback on – fair enough, wait a while longer, or be more specific in what you’re asking for feedback on.

If it’s that they don’t care to give you feedback, or it’s not a priority for them to take half an hour to communicate that with you, then I’d recommend looking for a better boss.

Giving Feedback

I used to be terrible at giving feedback – specifically, giving positive feedback. My career is largely built on solving problems, so I was always in a state of perpetual motion, where I’d fix one problem and then start on the next one immediately.

I used to feel wrong for patting people on the back and giving them positive feedback – as if to say “congrats, you did your job” was a bad thing. It didn’t feel genuine to me, as if you should only give positive feedback when something or someone was outstanding.

This took me years to overcome. I realized that people needed that kind of small, positive boost from time to time, even if things seemed trivial or not mission critical – telling someone they’re doing well and to keep it up can go a long way in maintaining motivation of those working with you.

Feedback sandwich is the worst way to go because you’re taking the most important part of the feedback away – the thing you actually need someone to improve on is the thing you’re trying to hide by packaging it with two good parts around it. This means you’re more worried about their feelings than their growth, which is the wrong way to approach it.

Here’s how I deliver feedback instead:

Start with the positive parts. This will allow the person you’re giving feedback to, to bolster their confidence and deal with the feedback more constructively.

  1. Mention what’s going well – and why.
  2. Go into what they can do to make the good thing even better.
  3. Mention what didn’t go well – and why.
  4. Dig deep into why you feel that way and what your thought process is.
  5. Present possible action steps for them to take to improve – get their input while you’re doing this. This will allow the feedback to not feel like an attack, but to feel constructive instead.

Doing this feels far more effective for me, but of course your millage may vary.

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear what works and doesn’t work for you.

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