4 Rules for Giving and Receiving Better Feedback

ENGINEERING Mar 09, 2021

By: Daniela Lozano, Engineering Manager

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

As an engineering manager, I’ve found feedback to be the most important tool in the process of coaching my team, and I’ve seen the effectiveness of it first hand by receiving candid feedback from my managers and leaders. Proper feedback opens a channel of clear communication and deep trust. The effects of clear and well managed feedback can range from small changes in behavior to promotions due to better management of responsibilities.

Given my experience with feedback as a Manager prior to my arrival at Commure, it was important for me to speak on and reinforce the existing feedback culture at Commure so that everyone could reap the benefits.

Foundations of Feedback

Commure enabled me to host a company wide training session to educate others on the benefits and nuance of giving, receiving and teaching great feedback. In this blog, my goal is to shed light on the feedback culture we have cultivated within Commure based on these sessions.

Everyone has different styles of communication, people can send a message in a written, spoken or even acted format. These differing styles can leave room for confusion and misunderstandings between individuals who may be more accustomed or able to process one type of message better than another. I have found that in order to be considered frank and trustworthy with one another we must first strive to make our messaging and communication as clear as possible. Keeping this foundation of clear communication in mind as we work on feedback allows us to create a higher form of team relationship by reducing misunderstandings, increasing trust, and tailoring our communication for the context it is delivered and received in.

Trust is the foundational element of any great relationship, be it with our coworkers or any other human. Trust is very simple to understand but requires a lot of work to maintain. If we cannot trust one another, we can’t trust the feedback that we receive, making it almost impossible to adjust our behavior.

In relationships, Trust is built on the alignment of our words, our actions, and our emotions and it is magnified or diminished by our intentions.

The following four feedback rules build on the foundation I outlined above. Each of them is crucial in creating and maintaining a feedback culture which builds trust and strengthens team relationships.

1. Well Timed and Frequent

Well timed and frequent feedback keeps our messaging to each other relevant. Feedback should happen as soon as a behavior that needs to be addressed or praised is identified and after enough time has passed to avoid seeming hostile towards the receiver.

To prevent from seeming as though you’re attacking a target of feedback: be mindful of asking for permission to give feedback, find a time when you and the other person are calm, and make sure you’re giving feedback in an appropriate setting. I believe you should always give constructive feedback in private and praise in public (when the recipient is comfortable with this). Here at Commure we suggest asking the other person their preferred method to receive feedback and we encourage everyone to tailor their messages accordingly.

2. Frame Feedback as Actionable and Specific

For this rule we suggest using the SBI framework. It stands for Situation, Behavior and Impact. The situation should describe why you’re providing this feedback as well as when you observed it. The behavior describes what the other person did, and your suggestion for change. It’s very important that you focus on what they do, not who they are. Finally, you should specify the impact of their behavior, let them know how it’s affecting the team or the recipient’s development.

Make sure to evaluate your feedback using the SBI model and identify feedback that is actionable. Once you’ve finished providing thorough feedback, you should always give the other person the opportunity to accept or reject your feedback. A feedback giver should be prepared to have a reasonable explanation and a path forward for all parties involved should feedback be rejected.

3. Always be Balanced and Fair

This rule is a reminder to always avoid demoralizing team members. At Commure we strive to spread as much positive feedback as possible. Highlight our team wins and celebrate individual contributions. When we see behavior that could be improved, people should feel empowered to address it and find solutions. But our goal is to find numerous pieces of positive feedback per one piece of constructive feedback.

4. Feedback is a Two-way Street

And finally, this is the most important rule of a healthy and thriving feedback culture. We must all receive feedback as much as (if not more than) we give it.

Thus we close the circle of trust by showing trust ourselves. At Commure we believe in fostering a culture of feedback where leadership acts as an example for all employees, and receives feedback with grace and positivity for what it is: an amazing opportunity to grow.

I hope this blog has shed some light on the culture of feedback I have worked to cultivate at Commure and why feedback is so important to a functional and happy workplace. I value the openness of Commure in enabling me to share this and to provide everyone with the same tools I have been given in order to grow.

If you’re interested in growing at Commure and would like to join our team, please do so here.

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