Give good feedback !

24 Sep, 2010
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For many of us ‘Inspect & Adapt’ has become a second nature. We love to timebox because we need the feedback to learn from it. ‘Feedback’ about the system we’re building or the process we’re using. Because individuals are to be found more important than processes and tools, we must not forget to give each other good feedback so we can also learn from that. After all, the Team will never grow, if the individuals in the Team don’t grow.
To give good one-on-one feedback is a very difficult thing. It’s hard to keep it save and it’s even harder to do it in a way that really helps the other learning something from it.
I ran into some nice ways of giving feedback :

Feedback can be used in many ways and circumstances. The basis idea is that you give someone a gift. You offer him insight in what the impact is of his behavior. Nothing more, nothing less. He can do with this gift whatever he wants. When you give feedback you expect nothing in return.
Some basic rules :

  • Basic rule #1 : Never add judgement to your feedback.
  • Basic rule #2 : Feedback is an expression of your truth. Never fight for it to be thé Truth.
  • Basic rule #3 : Give feedback before you’re annoyed and completely emotional. When your emotions are talking, you will not be able to meet rules 1 and 2.

First something about receiving feedback. When some gives you feedback the perfect answer would be ‘Thanks for your feedback.’. No arguing, no apologizing. It’s a gift and you can accept the gift without giving anything in return.
How to use feedback :

  • Real time feedback:

The most powerful feedback is given right at the moment it is needed. When in a conversation or a meeting you see somthing you don’t like ( or like a lot) you can give feedback directly. The easiest format is ‘I see ….. The effect on me is …..’.
Example : ‘I see you’re eyes light up when talking about this subject. This makes me think you really love this matter’ or ‘I hear you raise your voice. The effect on me is that it becomes very hard for me to argue with you.’
Both examples have no judgement in them and in both cases I don’t expect the other to do anything else but accept the feedback.
Giving real time feedback is very effective, and very difficult. Giving this kind of feedback with other people around is not always appreciated. Even in a one on one conversation it’s not always easy to do this because you have to act very fast. Wait 3 seconds and the moment slipped away.
The reason this is the most effective timing for giving feedback is that the receiver immediately learns from his behavior. He’s still in the emotion and can very well remember what he did and why he did it like that.

  • Late feedback :

It’s never too late to give feedback. Only, the more time has passed the more difficult it is to remember the exact moment. When feedback is given later on, it needs another format.
SBI is the most known format. Situation, Behavior, Impact. The format is ‘When we were ….., You did ….., The impact on me was …… “. First you bring the receiver back to the moment your feedback is about. Then you describe his behavior and then you tell him what the impact of his behavior was.
Example: “ Remember that meeting we had last tuesday in the big room together with the entire Team? – Yes -, In your reaction on the remark of Mark about the quality of the software you sounded really angry. The impact on me was that I didn’t dare to participate any more in the meeting.” or “This morning during breakfast you didn’t say a word. This makes me wonder whether you’re angry because I’ve worked all night.”
This kind of feedback is easy to give. Ask the person to drink a cup of coffee with you and say you have feedback for him. If you do it without judgement, the feedback will always be accepted. You’ll feel better and he will learn something from it.

  • Feedback in times of stress

Sometimes you’re in a conversation or a meeting that’s not going as you like. You can be under ‘attack’ or somewhere in the discussion it got personal or people are not taking their responsibilities ….. lot’s of situations to imagine. Direct feedback will help you to turn events into an effective event again. You can use realtime feedback as described above, or you can you one of the two types of real time feedback described below:
You can either reveal your feelings or name the ineffective behavior.
Example of revealing your feelings: You’ve worked all night to finish something and you’re colleague doesn’t even makes time to look at it the next morning. Instead of waiting untill someone makes the time and feeling frustrated, you could say ‘It makes me feel very sad that my hard work is not appreciated.” or “I see nobody is taking a look at my code of last night this makes me very angry because I really worked hard to finish this.” I guarantee you this will start up a wonderful conversation that will help the entire Team to grow.Example of naming behavior : You’re presenting your ideas and someone is sitting there talking to his neighbor and checking his email. Instead of ignoring him and complaining about it afterward, you could give him feedback directly and say “I think it is no professional behavior to disturb the meeting by talking and reading email while I’m presenting.” There is no judgement in this statement. This is your truth. The receiver of this feedback will either accept your feedback and pay attention or he will explain what he’s doing and leave the room or pay attention after that.
The best way to learn to give good feedback is to start doing it. Experiment with the different types of feedback and experience what works for you. Inspect & Adapt 🙂
I’ve experienced that when feedback is given honestly from the heart, it always brings something good.


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