As an organization focused on development, we’ve found feedback to be the most critical part — the ability to build your culture and your environment so that feedback is occurring in real-time across the entire organization.
Below we’ve published a list of the most commonly asked questions that we get on the subject. Starting with a recent interview with our Co-CEOs Meghan Messenger and Charlie Kim:
Do you have any concrete tips for giving and receiving feedback?
Meghan Messenger: If you really want somebody to take advice, they’ve got to trust you and your intention. And provide context — if you’re trying to help them grow, sometimes you need to share that with them: “Here’s why I’m saying this.”
I’ve always found it very difficult to give critical feedback. I found a bit of a crutch to first say, “I’ll start by telling you how hard this is for me to tell you this, and I think it might be hard for you to hear.” It braces and prepares everybody for the difficult conversation. It takes just a few seconds and it sets the tone of “This is going to be hard.” I’ve found that if they know it’s hard for me, it’s still harder for them to hear it, but it shows vulnerability, that my intention is good and I might be nervous too.
Charlie Kim: One of the most critical mistakes in giving feedback is that you don’t express and explain the potential. As a rule, we don’t give any feedback to someone we don’t believe has more potential. If they’re already done, they can never get better, so why would you give them feedback? It’s just mean. It’s cruel. But if their potential is here [raises hand] and they’re down here [lowers hand], you’re giving the feedback to bring them up to their potential. The mistake occurs when you give the feedback without actually expressing the potential you see in the person.
The other big error we see more in companies is not creating the practice-ground to “do it bad.” You first learn how to take advice badly before you learn how to take it well. You first give feedback badly before you do it well. Every organization wants to skip that bad step and jump straight to doing it well.
When people take advice badly, it’s usually one of two errors. They get angry, typically at the form of delivery. “That feedback was good, but I don’t like the way you said it, so I’m just going to reject all of it.”
It’s the job of the recipient to find the pearls of wisdom in the feedback regardless of how people deliver it, because most people are very bad at delivering feedback. The other side is a thoughtlessness to how you take advice: “I’ll just follow it blindly, word for word, with no thought of my own.” Where giving feedback usually goes bad is you coddle or you go brutal — there’s no in-between.
The hard part is realizing you have to accept and tolerate those four things — angry feedback-taker, following-blindly feedback-taker, coddling advice-giver, or brutal advice-giver — showing up a lot before you get good. But because organizations usually feel like “We cannot have that!” you’ll never develop a culture where people are good at either taking or giving feedback.
Negative feedback is really hard to give. How do I help the recipient trust my intent?
The first principle for feedback is TRUST. The person receiving feedback has to trust that your INTENT is good — that you are trying to help them improve and grow. There isn’t a short cut to trust, it takes time to build.
Next Jump Practice
The first place our employees practice giving and receiving feedback is with their Talking Partner (TP). In our TP program, each employee is paired with another employee. The intent of the TP partnership is to develop a trusted relationship which serves as a foundation for your growth. Your TP should be the first line of feedback for you. We found that the more authentic the relationship, the more direct feedback they can give one another.
Nayan on his TP relationship & feedback:
In some ways we are brutally honest with each other. We are past that stage where we are patting each other on the back and saying “Okay, good, good.” And we actually care for each other. And each knows that the other cares. If she was going in the wrong direction, I would just say, “You’re going wrong”…So, I am honest with her and giving critical feedback when necessary. And I point out the things I like that she is doing. She is making systematic improvements, and I make a point to tell her that, so that it doesn’t go unnoticed to her. And it’s the same in return.
Is everyone entitled to feedback?
No. Feedback is not something you are entitled to. It’s a gift. Setting the tone for this mindset is important within our organization. For someone to take the time and energy to observe you and share their feedback is something valuable.
Next Jump Practice
At Next Jump, we encourage a sense of gratitude for feedback. After receiving coaching in our Situational Workshops, we ask our employees to share what they found valuable back to their coach, and post key takeaways on our coaching center (available to everyone). We also found that having to share it with others helps you be deliberate in your reflection.
How do we train our people to take feedback without going into an emotional tailspin?
Frequency matters. And transparency matters. If you have a culture where feedback occurs frequently, it’s easier for people to take both positive and negative feedback in stride with less emotional volatility. It helps to not to feel alone in your feedback – seeing that other people are receiving feedback (both positive and negative) can take the emotional edge off.
Having an emotional response is human. Acknowledge that. Over time as you receive frequent feedback, it will become easier to be emotionally resilient to feedback.
Next Jump Practice
In the case of positive feedback, we want people to pour gas on it (to leverage something they are doing right, into something greater), and we also want them to teach it to others. Hearing positive feedback and resting on your laurels is just as unproductive as hearing negative feedback and shutting down. In the case of negative feedback, we talk openly about the grieving process that an individual might go through when they receive it for the first time – DASA (denial, anger, sadness, acceptance). It’s normal to feel those emotions.
In our culture, there is a lot of transparency and frequency in feedback. We have an app which allows anyone to leave feedback for another person. Anytime someone presents their work, you can leave feedback. And every person in the company can see all the feedback that other employees receive. Here’s an example:
What if I don’t agree with the feedback I’m given?
Take every piece of feedback as a data point. Over time, you will be able to see patterns in the data points. That’s where frequency is helpful as well – getting more data points, more often. The other important piece is trust. Assume people want to help you and know even if not said well, it is coming from a good place. It’s your job to find the pearls of wisdom in feedback; there’s usually a kernel of truth to it.
What are some tips to get honest feedback?
Ask yourself, how are you communicating (verbally and non-verbally) that you are open to feedback? One example common mistake: The presentation intro. “I care about this topic so much, I’ve spent the last week 24/7 and I’m so proud of what the team has here today and the hard work…” This is probably all true – but you have unknowingly made it a little harder to give feedback to you at the end of this presentation.
The alternative approach: “Because this topic means so much to me – your feedback is essential to get it right”
A popular illustration at Next Jump…which one are you lining up for?