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Get the feedback you need

There is a lot of training out there about how to give feedback. The thing is, often the feedback we receive isn’t given in the way that we’d most like.

(This is the second in a short series of posts about how we look at feedback here at Vanti. The first was about why we need feedback in the first place.)

How should can we receive feedback, even when it’s off-base, unfair, poorly delivered and you’re not in the mood? That is the subtitle of a book called Thanks For The Feedback whose concepts are really useful.

There are two aspects to the Stone and Heen’s content that have stuck in my mind for years.

The first one is that there are types of feedback and that conflict, mess and pain ensue when we’re not getting the type we expected.

Stone and Heen describe three types of feedback.

1. Appreciative feedback.

This is where someone recognises that you’re doing something well, and tells you so.

2. Coaching feedback

This is when someone suggests how you might do something better.

3. Evaluative feedback

This is the feedback you get when you’re being compared to an external standard – what we might think of as a traditional ‘performance review’ against a job spec, but it might be less formal than that.

All three types of feedback are useful.

It’s when you’re expecting one and you get another that problems ensue.

“I just wish someone would recognise me.”

Not enough appreciative feedback, or developmental feedback when they want appreciation, can lead someone to feel like they are going unacknowledged. On a safety vs growth continuum, they’re getting lots of growth opportunities, but not enough safety.

Even in as friendly a culture we have here at Vanti, British reserve can lead to us feeling awkward at giving this type of feedback. We’re devoting a big part of our All Hands team day to this theme as busy-ness can get in the way of even remembering that people need this type of feedback.

“Yes, but how can I do better?”

Not enough developmental feedback can leave someone rudderless – or at best, working out how they might improve based on their own observations. Whilst they’re getting lots of safe, affirming information, if someone is looking for developmental feedback and they only get appreciation, it can lead to them thwarted in their desire to grow.

It can also lead to blindspots, which hamper both the individual and the company from evolving.

“How am I doing?”

Without evaluative feedback, someone can feel like they don’t know how they measure up. We all want to be doing a good job, and knowing how we’re doing against what we were hired to do (both technically and as a team member) is vital. Neither appreciative nor developmental feedback fulfil the purpose of knowing how you’re doing based on previously agreed expectations.

Having these definitions can help to make it easier to seek feedback.

If you are feeling unsatisfied by the feedback you’re getting, consider if you are craving a different type of feedback and ask for it. At Vanti, we are experimenting with using these definitions in how people request feedback for their Performance and Development Review meetings and building them into our culture.

The second aspect of Stone and Heen’s concepts that stuck with me is how we get around our emotional blocks at receiving feedback. That’s the next post in this series.