A Beginner's Life

Giving Honest Feedback

2 min read

We’ve been doing some feedback rounds at Wistia, and I’ve had the chance to participate in a few of them. These feedback rounds are such a big deal: we don’t do them often, which means they have an outsized effect on that person’s growth and outlook (this immediately highlights an opportunity to conduct these more often).

I spent a long time thinking and reviewing one Wistian’s feedback in particular – he is someone I admire and spend my time working with. While he and I have lots of honest conversations, the formal feedback sessions provide more oomph, so I wanted to be thoughtful and thorough.

In our follow-up conversation, we were able to get to even more depth. Since then, our working (and personal) relationship has improved, which will lead directly to measurably better (faster, higher quality, more impactful) output.

In reflecting on my experiences with the feedback process, a few things that stick out to me:

  1. Use a consistent process. We’ve approached feedback with the same process for years: one person is organizing the feedback, they survey a panel of peers using similar questions, they formulate and share the feedback. We look to avoid changing our starter questions, unless there is a clear purpose. This ensures people across the company have similar experiences. This doesn’t mean we only cover those questions – they are meant to stimulate thought and cover all the bases.
  2. When your friends and those you respect ask for feedback, they don’t want you to hold back. Great people and friends want to improve, and if they are asking for it honestly, they trust your opinion. Respect that by taking the time to think about your feedback for them, and speak openly. Help them identify what their highest contributions are, where they are being held back, and where they might be holding others back.
  3. When giving feedback (positive or negative) include how their behavior makes you feel. While some might tell you should keep feelings out of professional feedback, I strongly disagree. Emotions are extra connective tissue the feedback receiver can use to internalize and create new behaviors around the feedback.

It feels really good to give feedback that has an impact. When you see that person grow and challenge themselves, you feel a sense of leverage – you played a part in their journey.

What does your feedback process look like?

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