Discover more from Always Be Shipping
How to always get great feedback
Is it possible to get awesome feedback every time? And how do we avoid the messy parts? I share my hacks on how to stay safe when the ice breaks.
The first time I showed my work to a client, It wasn't pretty. It was messy and awful in many ways. I opened up for feedback in a way that kind of took apart the entire work I had made. Hurtful things were said, and I lost my credibility in front of a big team. I left that meeting with no idea of how to move my work forward. I made a lot of mistakes that day, and I learned a lot of things too. Even if i didn't realize it until much later.
It’s like music to my ears whenever I receive constructive pointers that put my work in the right direction. Because that’s the entire point of feedback. To move things forward. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. As a designer, I've had my share of badly delivered feedback. And have probably delivered senseless noise to others once or twice over the years. The lesson learned is: I am responsible for the quality of the feedback I receive. And have to set the stage properly to get the feedback I want.
I want to share my way of looking at feedback, and what my mental model looks like when I’m trying my best to do it the right way. I’ve learned a few things to avoid the messy hurtful stuff, and how to make sure that the feedback is meaningful, whether you are giving or receiving feedback. I hope you find it useful!
HOW TO GIVE GREAT FEEDBACK
This is my mental checklist for giving feedback:
1 Did the person in question asked for your feedback?
If Yes - move on to step 4
If no - move on to step 2
2 Do you have something to say?
Do you have thoughts or knowledge on the area that you consider to be of value for the person in question?
If yes - move on to step 3
If no - Forever hold your peace
3 Ask for permission to give feedback
This is important and can get messy if done wrong. Try something like:
“Hey! great work on the X, looks like you are really making progress. I have worked on a similar thing and I have some input that I think you might find valuable moving forward. I would love to share my thoughts on this with you. What do you say?”
This prepares the person i question to listen and take in information. It also opens up for a yes or a no. A yes is great because it sets the stage for what will happen and what to expect in this meeting. A no is not that great but is not very likely if this step is done correctly.
If yes - move on to step 4
If no - Repeat step 3 later or forever hold your peace
4 Make sure you understand what the person needs input on
Ask questions like: How can I help you in the right direction? And what do you want me to keep in mind? What do you want me to focus/not focus on? Where are you in this process?
Ask yourself: Do I understand what the person needs input on?
If Yes - move on
If No - repeat step 4
Ask yourself: Is this something I actually think I’m in position of giving valuable input on.
If Yes - move on
If Else: Explain your level of knowledge on the area and recommend someone else if possible.
5 Deliver feedback in form of a sandwich 🥪
Bread, something in between, bread. Meaning = positive, pointer, positive.
And it sounds something like:
I really like how you address the X we talked about earlier. I think spending more time on Y would take this to the next level, and I’m really impressed by your Z skills.
6. Make sure you make sense and that your feedback is helpful.
Ask questions like: Is my input helpful? Is this of value? Am I addressing the right problems?
If Yes - move on
If else - repeat step 4
Repeat steps 5-6 if needed.
7. Say thank you.
Finish by saying “Thank you for letting me in on this, I really appreciate it.”
8. Have no expectations
Your job here is done. You’ve shared your thoughts in a respectful and meaningful way. Likely this will move the work or the person in question in a direction. But don’t have your hopes too high. What the person decides to do with your feedback is not up to you. Remember that there might be a handful of people with input on this, maybe with very different opinions.
HOW TO ALWAYS GET GREAT FEEDBACK
With a few adjustments, this model works the other way around and can be used as a mental model for receiving feedback as well. This is how it goes:
1. Ask for feedback.
Asking for feedback is a way to align, content, and involve the team you're working with. It’s a way to put your work in the right direction and part of the process of getting buy-in on your ideas. Sometimes just showing your work is a way of moving forward – more than the feedback itself.
It sounds something like this: I know you have a lot of experience on X, I’m working on Y, and would love to have your input on Z. What do you say?
2. Make sure the one giving feedback understands what to focus on and what not to focus on.
It sounds something like this:
“This is my process so far. The problem I’m trying to address is.. Changes I made so far.. I would love to hear your expert input on X. At this stage I want you to focus on Y. I need guidance on the direction of Z from an X point of view."
Set the stage as you want it. And make it clear that you are in charge of the work, progress forward, and the decision-making.
It sounds something like: “I what your input on this before I make my final decisions.” That way you are in charge of how to use the feedback given.
Ask if the person is comfortable addressing what you need input on?
Is this something you can help me look into?
3. Make sure the feedback is meaningful and confirm.
It sounds something like this:
Yes, this is what I need input on. This is really helpful. I see - I’ll keep this in mind. You gave me some ideas on how to move on now.
If the feedback isn't helpful repeat step 2.
4. End sessions by saying thank you.
You might clarify what was helpful, but feel no obligation. You could just say thanks for your feedback I appreciate our collaboration, and you taking your time looking into this.
5. Choose what to do with the feedback
You are now fully in charge of how to use this feedback. If it’s useful: use it. If it’s not: feel no obligation to clarify why you didn't move forward in a specific direction.
You’ve now shown your work and opened a focused conversation, pinpointing the right things without giving away the decision-making. You’ve done your best to avoid baseless claims and messy opinions - and you’ve kept your credibility on top all the way!
This is my way of looking at feedback. I hope you find the use of it - And I’m intrigued to hear your thoughts or hacks on the topic.