How to Give Feedback

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Why give feedback?

Feedback is one of the greatest ways to help others succeed in their work and professional lives. It is a chance for us to identify weaknesses that we may not be aware of, reinforce things we do well that we may not notice or realize the impact on others, and can help us prioritize which weaknesses we should focus on addressing. Additionally and somewhat paradoxically, giving difficult feedback to each other is a way to build stronger relationships within a team and increases overall performance as it shows trust (for the person giving and the person receiving), investment in each other, and prevents issues from remaining below the surface.

Giving feedback is hard for a number of reasons. First, people often assume that feedback leads to conflict and most folks avoid conflict at (almost) any cost. Second, most people are not good at it and so often end up giving inappropriate criticisms of people rather than constructive observations for improvement. And finally, to give and receive feedback requires a vulnerability from both parties that most people avoid, especially in the work environment. However, all of these are poor reasons to avoid giving feedback; we should try to be kind instead of nice.

What constitutes good feedback?

Good feedback has to come from a position of caring and candor: you must be giving it because you want that person to be better and you must give it to them honestly and completely so that the recipient can leverage your insights. Giving “feedback” like “you’re doing great” means nothing, “your work on this project sucked” just makes you an asshole.

Radical Candor

Additionally feedback should either A) reinforce something that we are doing positively which we are aware of or B) identify something for us to work on that other people see and we ourselves are not aware of (or aware of the significance).

Johari Window

One useful way to think about feedback is to assume that the issue that you see stems from a positive virtue someone else possesses that either is overly expressed or is something contradictory to your own desired style. This is known as the core quadrant model.

Core Quadrant

For example, someone being slow in their work is often a product of caution, which can either be excessive (too cautious) or your allergy (you yourself throw caution to the wind and like to wing it). Framing your interpretation of their actions in this model can help formulate good constructive feedback Core Quadrant model, discover and influence core qualities.

Model for giving good feedback

To give good feedback, it should be specific and actionable, and given in a way which both parties understand in the same way. The recommended model to give feedback is to:

  • Set the context
  • Define what happened and what the impact was
  • Explain why that was significant to you
  • If constructive, explain what you’d like to see different in the future

Stepwise, it reads:

  1. Event: The time and place that you observed it in
    • The other day when we were in meeting X
  2. Behavior: What the person did that you are giving feedback on
    • You told me that my idea was stupid / You stopped your presentation to explain the concept to me
      NOTE: Make sure to get acceptance on the first two points before continuing
  3. Impact: What was the result of that behavior on the group, the outcome, etc
    • That completely killed the conversation on the topic / Everyone in the room stopped their discussion to listen and the conversation was much more detailed after your explanation
  4. Emotions: How it made you feel and why this is an important topic
    • It made me feel that my opinion does not matter to you / It made me feel that it is important to you that I can participate in discussions on this topic
  5. Expectations: What you expect to be done differently in the future (if constructive)
    • Next time, if you disagree with my idea please explain what issues you see and alternatives I might consider

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Experienced analytics professional with more than ten year’s experience, possessing a background in finance. Focused for the last eight years on data science and business intelligence, I have successfully led green field deployment projects in
gaming, retail, and travel. Technologies used include a mixture of commercial (Tableau, HP Vertica, Oracle) and open source (Apache Spark/Hadoop, Postgres, Pentaho). Have successfully implemented advanced analytics architectures in hosted, cloud, as well as hybrid models. Experienced in developing machine learning and statistical models using both Python and R.

More importantly, I have been leading teams and strategy regarding data science, analytics, personalization, Business Intelligence,
and CRM since 2008. In this scope I have been responsible for defining organizational strategies regarding data and analytics, as well as facilitating the rollout of data science projects throughout the organization. As a manager I have successfully developed a number of juniors into leadership roles both within my own organization and outside.

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