Giving feedback

I’m often asked by people how they can give someone else feedback. Whether it’s negative feedback that someone needs to improve, or positive feedback complementing someone on a positive action, I get asked this so often that I thought it was easier to post it.

So here it is. I’m no expert on feedback, and what’s below has worked for me. It might not work for you, and that’s ok.

Where to start

With all feedback, positive or negative, there are two ways that I usually use and recommend for giving feedback

1) Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI)

  • Describe the situation. For example: When we were in the planning meeting the other day
  • Describe the behaviour. For example: You were thoroughly prepared and were able to present your stories quickly and coherently
  • Describe the impact or affect: For example: This meant we could get consensus on your items and move along quickly. It helped to keep the meeting running smoothly

2) Action, Impact, Do (AID)

  • Describe the action the person took: In today’s planning meeting, your tickets weren’t in the correct state on the board
  • Describe the impact or affect that this action had: This meant that you had to spend time updating the tickets, which slowed the meeting down
  • Make a request for something they can do differently: Next time, please can you come to the meeting with your tickets up to date.

Things to avoid

1) Judgement

Try to state only the facts and remove judgement from your statements. For example, the feedback above could be reworded with judgement: “You weren’t prepared for today’s planning meeting. Next time, please come prepared and make sure your tickets are up to date.“ The judgement in this sentence is “you weren’t prepared” – you’d be making an assumption which may not be true. Stick to the facts only

2) Hyperbole

“Your work is always excellent” This might be nice to hear, but doesn’t contain any information for the person. Think about what they’ve done that make them seem “excellent”. Try to be specific, for example “your code is high quality, great work” or “You were so helpful when you facilitated that conversation and it really helped us to get consensus”

3) Taking too long

This is especially important for criticism or negative feedback. It should happen as soon as possible, but ideally privately.

4) Not taking ownership

Say “I”. “I noticed”, “I felt”, “I saw”. This means you’re taking ownership of the feedback and the person you’ve giving feedback to can have a meaningful conversation about it.

5) Being vague

Before you give feedback, spend some time prepping and understand exactly what it is you’re telling someone. If someone has given you feedback as a manager and you want to pass it on, make sure you are absolutely clear about what you’re hearing and what you’re going to say. Don’t make people guess what you’re saying, and don’t make them investigate to find out more.

Giving feedback

It’s like technical debt, but for my health

I thrive on stress. I am at my best in a crisis where things need to be fixed quickly. I get a lot of value out of this: what I do often has a strong positive impact, and usually benefits from being “so much better than it was before”. This is immensely satisfying and so I keep doing it. See a problem, fix the problem, move on. I’m a fixer. This is my job. I love my job.

Except that when I’m operating at capacity, I have no space to manage changes to my equilibrium. People who know me will know that I get every cold that’s going around and that it takes me twice as long as anyone else to recover. I love my job so much that I start working too soon after being unwell, never giving myself time to recover. I break the rules that I set for other people: don’t work if you’re sick. I return to work and expect to be high performing, ignoring all the signals that my body is giving me. I never recover.

And so I find myself in a situation that is incredibly difficult to think or talk about: I love my job so much that I’ve made myself chronically ill.

My symbiotic relationship with stress has turned sour. I have a secondary infection from a cold that I can’t shake. I feel like I can’t cope with simple conversations or interactions. I take every piece of feedback personally rather than inspecting it objectively. I react, rather than act. I sob in meeting rooms. The stress and ongoing illness make everything feel like it’s too much. Everything is too hard, too much.

I’ve made myself ill. I’ve broken something and now I need to fix it, so I’m calling time-out for a while, until I’m better.

I’m a fixer. It’s time to fix me.

It’s like technical debt, but for my health

Preparing for a puppy

So, you want to get a puppy. A tiny little doggy with soft eyes and floppy ears and little rolls of puppy fat and a whole lot of skin to grow in to. Everyone has told you that puppies are hard work, you know they’re hard work because you’ve read everything you can find and you’re totally prepared for this.

NO, YOU ARE NOT. Nothing can possibly prepare you for the tiny, chewy, poopy, sheddy, barky whirlwind that you’re about to invite into your home for the next 15 years.

Here’s some stuff you can do to prepare:

1) Teething: get a saw and head to your skirting boards. Lop off 3 – 5cm bits of the skirting boards, particularly the pointy bits on the corners. Ensure you make as much mess as possible and try not to leave a smooth surface that you can easily paint over. When you’re done, take a fork and stab around the area. Make sure you do the same to any other bits of wooden furniture in the house – bookshelves, sideboards and cabinets are all good places to start. You have now experienced the first couple of days of teething.

2) Tantrums: puppies have tantrums when they’re overtired and it’s easy to let them get overtired, especially in the first few weeks while you’re getting used to each other. To prepare for this, have a look on YouTube and find a complication of orcs feeding on pigs and seagulls. Don’t worry, you don’t have to watch it. Play it as loud as you possibly can, preferably through a house-wide Sonos system, for roughly 30 minutes at least twice a day.

3) Shredding: shredding is the best game ever and you can play it too! Find a corner of your carpet and gently peel it up. Take a pair of scissors and snip off a large part of the underlayer. Cut some fronds into the carpet and then blitz the underlayer in a blender for a minute. For extra credit, throw in a pair of your pants and a sock. Now, scatter the mixture around the carpet. See, loads of fun! Also, set up a shredder under your postbox. When a letter comes in, run it through the shredder. Then, pick out the pieces and try to glue them back together so you can read the letter.

4) Digging and general garden stuff: firstly just go ahead and spray weed killer on your lawn in a rough polka dot pattern. Next, get a large serving spoon and start digging a hole with it in your favourite flower bed. Make sure you spread the soil unevenly around the garden, preferably on parts of the lawn you haven’t just sprayed with weed killer. For good measure, bury a dried pig’s ear and water it well. In a week, dig it up and place it in the sofa. Be sure to spread soil into the sofa too.

Despite all of this though, your tiny, poopy, shreddy puppy will bring you endless hours of fun (when they’re not making you cry) and who can resist those eyes anyway?

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Preparing for a puppy