Can we talk? Tips & Tricks For Creating a Feedback-Rich Culture

By: Shelby Turk | Nov 17, 2022 |  Agile

An image of two women giving each other peer feedback face-to-face.

“I have some critical feedback for you that I’d like share. When would be a good time?”

Feedback loops are a key part of working in an Agile way. Creating a feedback rich environment is a responsibility of the full team, and is a integral element in having a high performance Agile team. The way that feedback is shared can be the difference between a growth experience (for both giver and receiver) and the beginning of a toxic spiral. Like most skills, giving feedback to your teammates is something that needs to be practiced – often.

I recently had to give someone important feedback, and it could not wait for the next roundtable review. It was sensitive and I knew the conversation was going to be a challenge for both parties. I reached out to my mentor to get coaching beforehand and got some advice that changed the way I look at feedback entirely.

“Honesty, candor, and respect. It’s a loving thing to do to give generous, constructive feedback.” 

The intent behind the feedback was to grow our relationship and to safely bring light to a problem. With this lens, the conversation was still difficult for me to instigate, but it was in service of the recipient, not to spite them. It was now “us versus the problem” and it was up to us to come up with a solution.

Critical feedback is part of the groundwork for any great team, and below are some tips to help give critical, specific, and loving feedback to your teammates.

Plan What You Need to Say
Rough out in advance what you’d like to say. Write up an outline, or a rough draft. Then bounce it off of a coach, or a friend. Practice it out loud. How would it feel if you were on the receiving end?

Talk Face-to-Face (or Video-to-Video)
Text-based communication (Slack, email, etc.) is very useful, but also prone to misinterpretation. Without vocal tone, body language, and emotional inflection, it is easy to misread a situation. Face-to-face conversations have room for questions and empathy and are more likely to end in a positive outcome. 

Present Observations, Not Interpretations
It’s easy to assign an intent or meaning to a situation. However, it’s better to present what you saw and allow them to give their perspective.

Example -“I’ve seen that your backlog is growing, can you share what’s going on?” is a much kinder way than “ “I know you have been overwhelmed with work” 

Don’t Wait
When given the choice between having a hard conversation and doing anything else, it’s tempting to avoid the feedback. For feedback to be most effective, the memory needs to be fresh in both parties’ minds, so the conversation can be actionable and effective. By not letting days or weeks go by, the context (challenges, emotions, process, etc) is fresh and easy to discuss.

Set The Stage
While you don’t want to wait, you also don’t want to surprise someone with critical feedback. Letting the recipient know that you have critical feedback and allowing them to choose the meeting time gives them control and space to listen to the feedback you have. You can give a deadline but empowering the recipient can start the conversation in an open headspace.

Follow Up And Consistently Provide Feedback
Many of us can relate to the emotional flooding that follows receiving critical feedback. Allowing the recipient to leave the meeting and digest the message, and then checking back in the days following, creates a space of growth for both parties. Consistently giving, and receiving, feedback builds a stronger team. Each session builds deeper trust within the team and pushes the team to be better as a unit.

How To Build A Feedback Rich-Environment
I hope the tips above help you get better at providing valuable feedback. If you are interested in learning how to improve the feedback loops in your organization, contact us.

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