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  • Rishi Gaurav Bhatnagar

Learnings on giving feedback

Feedback is the most important part of any system. Feedback when given correctly and implemented properly leads to evolution, without it, there is only death(of ideas, of products, and of business) to look forward to.

Depending on what you do, where you are in your career- student, professional, senior, product manager, or otherwise, you will be required to give feedback quite often.

As someone who works with people and products, giving feedback has become an integral part of my job and responsibility. Earlier in my career, I could give feedback and not worry about how it impacts the person and the project. But over the years I have had a hard realization.

Realization: as a leader, my feedback can either help kick off a project and fuel its growth or completely derail it, demotivate the team and aggravate stress, anxiety to inhuman levels.

After pondering this for a bit, over the past 2 years I have built a system for giving feedback that I use every day. Learn more about it below.

What feedback isn’t:

  1. Blatant expression of your emotions:

    1. “I don’t like this”

    2. “I love/hate this“

    3. “This is shit work”

  2. Space of confrontation. It is a space for conversation.

  3. Personal attacks.

  4. Threats & ultimatums.

This is what I recommend:

  1. Make notes :

    1. Make sure you understand the intricacies of what is presented to you and the effort that goes into it.

    2. Articulate your thoughts.

    3. Keep specific examples handy.

  2. Start with the parameters on which you will give feedback

    1. This makes it clear to you first.

    2. This helps the reader understand where you are coming from.

  3. Speak about what you love about the work presented to you and be genuine about it.

  4. Acknowledge that work, whether great or terrible, took a lot of effort.

    1. Show the person on the receiving end that you see them and you see their work

  5. What needs work and why?

    1. This is very important. You can not just say “I don’t like the color”, it has to be meaningful and you should be able to support your inputs with proper reasons.

    2. You erode trust every time you are unable to explain yourself. It’s ok to say “there is something about it I’m unable to articulate right now, let me spend some time and return.”

  6. When projects don’t meet timelines or expectations. Get the receiver’s perspective. This is feedback for you:

    1. Were the requirements not clear?

    2. Were the expectations not clear?

    3. Was there a lack of research?

    4. Was there a lack of effort?

    5. Was there a lack of support?

    6. Was there a lack of resources?

  7. If you have the bandwidth, write down the feedback, or ask the receiver to do the same to make sure both of you are on the same page. I have spent weeks going back and forth on the same feedback with nothing moving forward because I assumed the receiver understood it.

  8. Ask yourself if the feedback is clear, actionable, and whether it takes the project further. If not you need to rework your feedback.

Depending on your position, people may not be very open with their communication / feel the ease of it. You must be cognizant of that and find appropriate ways of building a relationship with people.

What you can do:

  1. Learn how to create a safe space.

  2. Re-assure and reinforce the fact that you care about the person and the team.

  3. Be genuine. If you are not happy, show that. Feeling strong emotions is human, expressing them is too, but being reactive to them isn’t. It does take self-work, but being able to respond to the emotions and expressing them through words is a skill one must develop. There is a difference between feeling anger v/s being angry. The goal is to feel anger and express it, “listen, this behavior makes me feel a lot of anger” v/s starting a shouting match. Express emotions but don’t be a dick.

  4. Give space for clarification.

  5. Ask how they would like to be lead

    1. More follow-ups?

    2. Clearer requirements?

    3. A different way of delivering information?

  6. Diffuse high emotionally charged arguments within the team by drawing boundaries.

  7. Give more chances. People grow, they really do.

  8. Offer simpler/more relaxed timelines.

  9. Ask them for reverse explanations to check for their understanding and plug the gap whenever you spot it.

  10. Know that with the right feedback you have the power to create incredible leaders!

If you are the one receiving the feedback, you could use this structure to seek feedback too!

If I said any of this is easy to implement, that would be a lie. None of this is easy, but then again, anything this important will demand you to do the work.

I hope this was helpful to you. I would love to know about what has worked for you, and how I could build a better system for myself. Shoutout to Vaibhav for having the first look at this and giving me feedback :)

Keep growing! Be 1% kinder to yourself today <3


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