At Atlassian Summit this year, we heard from author Kim Scott, who’s spent years studying the best way to give feedback, and eventually wrote a book on it called Radical Candor. In a previous article, we covered Kim’s elements of Radical Candor, but today, we are going to dive into some practical ways you can get better at giving (and receiving) feedback in your work.
If you want to be good at giving feedback, you also need to be good at getting it. Remember the old saying, “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it”?
You need to feel comfortable asking your team or direct reports for feedback, and in doing so, you help establish a culture where feedback is not something to be feared, but a normal part of working as a team . One way that Kim recommends eliciting feedback is at the end of a one-on-one meeting with someone.
- Embrace the discomfort. Your teammate might not necessarily want to give you feedback when you ask for it, but embrace the discomfort and leave the opportunity open. One way Kim recommends to do this is ask for feedback, then shut your mouth and count to 6. You will get something in return for the silence.
- Listen with the intent to understand, not to respond. It’s that simple, and that hard at the same time.
- Reward the candor. Thank the person for sharing feedback with you. Especially if it was a hard word for you to hear, all the more important that you heard it.
This one may be obvious, but if you want to give good feedback, you have to practice! And remember, it is practice, so you will fail along the way. Just keep these things in mind to help you out:
- Give more praise than criticism. Remember that part about people remembering more negative feedback than positive? Keep the positive reinforcement up.
- Be humble. Everyone is biased; your read on every situation is not 100% accurate. Keep that in mind when offering your feedback.
- Be helpful. Share your intention to be helpful.
- Do it immediately. There’s no reason to delay when you’re trying to help somebody.
- Don’t make it about personality. It is very hard to change your personality, it is more possible to change your behavior.
- Do it in person. Or video chat if you can’t meet face to face.
- Criticize in private, praise in public.
“Radical candor gets measured not at your mouth, but at the other person’s ear” – Kim ScottClick to tweet
One of the truest things about feedback is that it’s all about your audience. It doesn’t really matter how good of a job you think you did sharing feedback, if your hearer feels hurt or attacked, that is on you. A good way to measure your feedback is to use the Radical Candor framework, and ask people how the feedback you offered landed for them. Sharing this framework among your team provides everyone with a shared vocabulary for offering good feedback.
Having a healthy feedback process at your workplace isn’t something that is just going to happen naturally. It takes a champion, like you, to encourage people to respond and communicate well with each other. Especially if you are in a leadership position, and you have people coming to you with complaints or seeking advice, insist on “clean escalation”. Here’s what that looks like:
- Don’t let people talk badly about each other to you.
- Ask if someone has tried to work it out directly.
- Suggest they escalate the issue together.
Will this work at my company?
Now, you may be thinking, “that’s all fine and good for some companies, but my company is different. That would never work here.” That may very well be true; every company culture is unique.
But Kim reminded us that it’s universally human to value love and truth . No matter what your work culture is like, remember that radical candor is measured at the ear of the receiver, so meet your coworkers where they are, especially given the business context you work in.
It takes a village to give good feedback, so please, share these ideas with your team, help them learn about the framework, and start having better conversations. And if you haven’t yet read our first article about Kim Scott’s elements of Radical Candor, give it a read through, too.