Better feedback means better work

Posted • Reading Time: 5 minutes

Feedback is surprisingly overlooked. I have tried to make sure that this article is relevant to both designers and developers. The only real difference between design and development feedback is that, if you aren’t a developer, it’s hard to feedback on other developers API choices whereas when it comes to design, everyone can have a say.

Asking for feedback

“We all need people who give us feedback, that’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

Feedback, especially when it’s concise, direct, and constructive can have a truly exponential effect on you as a person and employee, as well as your business. It often takes a while to learn how to properly get and give feedback to other people. If you don’t ask for feedback, you don’t have control over the process.

Be clear what stage you are at when asking for feedback. It’s important, when asking for feedback to tell your peers the general direction of the project you’re going and at this point ask if anyone has a problem with the direction. This is not the time to discuss polish.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, Choose language that is authentic to you but don’t set yourself back from the start. In the UK we tend to be shy about our work – “I made this thing, it’s ok but we can go another way if you like?” Whereas the USA are the total opposite – “This is the best thing i’ve ever done and nothing else will do as the solution”. Be confident but don’t be dismissive of other’s feedback.

Who do you want to receive better feedback from? Be clear on who you want to receive feedback from. If you know someone has a strength in something relative to what you’r doing, talk to them. They may not be in your team but that doesn’t mean you can’t go and speak to them. They won’t bite. Chances are they’ve been where you are so their feedback will be extremely valuable.

If someone says “I don’t like it”, interact with that person. Ask them why they don’t like it or what would they have changed. You’ll find that a lot of people still lack the basic principles of giving better feedback, a problem that can really slow a project and team down. On a side note – don’t put up with disrespectful feedback.

Listening to feedback

After someone has given you feedback, it’s important not to respond with the first thing that comes into your head. You might not hear what you were expecting to hear. Don’t get annoyed if this is the case. Listen more and digest until they are finished before you construct your decision. No one is going to start the countdown timer for you to respond. You need to be aware of your emotions and also be able to manage them, so that even if the feedback causes an emotional response, you can control it.

Say thank you. Always thank the person who has given you the feedback. They have already seen that you have listened and understood, now you need to accept it. Acceptance in this way does not mean that you need to act on it. However, you do need to consider the feedback, and decide how, if at all, you wish to act upon it. That is entirely up to you, but remember that the person giving the feedback felt strongly enough to bother mentioning it to you. Do them the courtesy of at least giving the matter some consideration. If nothing else, with negative feedback, you want to know how not to generate that response again.

Giving better feedback

Giving better feedback to your colleagues and employees provides them with an observer’s insight into how their performance is progressing, as well as advice to solve any problems. But, for a number of people, hearing the six words, “Can I give you some feedback?” generates fear and anxiety. The words go through a translator in our brain and are heard as, “Can I completely tear you down?” It can be perceived that the person giving the feedback is somehow superior to the person receiving it, putting the receiver on the defence.

Criticism tries to shut something down, critique tries to further something. Be positive when giving feedback. Positive feedback stimulates the reward centres in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking new direction. Meanwhile, negative feedback indicates that an adjustment needs to be made and the threat response turns on and defensiveness sets in. You don’t need to avoid negative, or corrective, feedback altogether. Just make sure you follow it up with a suggested solution or outcome. Think about how you want the person to feel when offering feedback.

Responding to feedback

When responding to feedback, lead with expression of appreciation. Appreciate that they are offering their thoughts and that they took the time to do so. Step away from the written word and talk face to face and keep the project goals in mind

Summary

  • Be aware of what stage you’re at with the project
  • Ask those who you’d like feedback from
  • Be humble when giving feedback and don’t be derogatory
  • Don’t put up with disrespectful feedback
  • When responding, lead with expression of appreciate and say thank you.

PS. I’m available to take on small projects. Get in touch to get started!

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