ATD Blog: A Fresh Start to Feedback

In my first blog post, I made the case that we have feedback all wrong. Not only do we have it wrong, but we’re paying a significant price for our missteps and misuse. The call for a feedback fix is loud and strong. Why? Because getting feedback right will free us from the hurt and damage we’re inadvertently causing one another. Delivered properly, feedback lifts us up and opens new doors. If we work together to fix feedback, we can collectively capture those meaningful connections that will improve our relationships, our work, and ourselves.

Let’s be clear: “Getting it right” isn’t about a few tweaks here and there; it’s about starting over. It requires tearing down our old beliefs and building new ones. We’re wiping the slate clean of old practices and protocols and getting a fresh start on feedback.

Our first step is crafting a spiffy new definition. We’re redefining feedback in a manner that supports our true intent and desired outcomes.

Each word in our definition was carefully selected, so let’s take a little time to explore what’s here.

Clear and Specific—If we want to provide feedback that helps, it needs enough specificity to be meaningful and useful. Telling a colleague “Working with you inspires me” is a lovely thing to say (and I encourage you to frequently share such positive things), but the statement lacks specificity. Saying “The time you spend focused on helping me learn and understand the work we’re doing together inspires me” adds clarity. Now they know what they are doing that is having a real and positive impact.

Feedback helps you understand your own strengths and gives you insight into what you can do more of for yourself and others. Feedback that provides clear understanding inspires learning and action.

Sought and Extended—Feedback is as much about soliciting as it is about offering, with the aim of bringing information into a shared conversation. Seeking feedback invites those around us into a safe relationship that minimizes fear and allows trust to flourish.

Sole Intention—If feedback isn’t intended to help individuals or teams thrive and grow, why offer it or seek it? If it doesn’t meet those standards, don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s feedback.

Equally important is what’s not in our definition: Feedback is not intended for evaluation, blame, or judgment. We see feedback as insight that helps all of us look forward to a better version of ourselves, our organization, or our team. Raking the past over the coals and attaching an evaluative label to people has little to do with creating a better you, me, or us.

Like what you’re hearing? If this call for a feedback fix is music to your ears, please join our movement to #fixfeedback.