Transcript of giving feedback

Giving Feedback tips

Sean Harris: You have to have an open environment where people are willing to give feedback, where people try not to take it personally. Sometimes it is really hard not to take it personally, but it pushes the team forward as a whole if people are able to be open like that. 

Alfred Bovadgis: I read this book, and there's this thing called "different strokes for different blokes." So each person will accept a certain way of talking to them about their design work.

Lila Azouz: When I used to teach, I’d give feedback where you give a positive, a negative, and a positive, so that the person doesn’t walk away thinking the last thing said was negative feedback. So you find something good to say that is encouraging, then go into the more constructive stuff, saying "OK, these are the areas you can improve," and then at the end, just have something encouraging like "you can do this."

Alfred: If you have a bunch of professionals in the room, be it engineers, designers, electrical engineers, etc., they all have their own perspective on things and they're all quite important. But often you'll get the mechanical and electrical guys clashing, and designers saying "I want it to look better like this...but the antenna needs to stick up like a lollipop," you know. 

Sean: And now I'm the team leader for the RoboCup team, I have to give feedback to other students, and say things like "Well, this bit's good" and "you're doing well here, but this is the part you need to improve." And so I try to be delicate in the feedback, but also be honest. There's no point sugar-coating it, because it's going to come out eventually. 

Alfred: So what we do is we have a meeting every Monday and we strike out all negativity - we can only say positive things about what's happening. Then in the session straight after that, we say all the negative things. Then we try to link the two things together and try to figure out what's going on in both halves. We write down all the different things that need to be changed and follow up on them within that week.

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Giving feedback strategies

At some point in university or in life, you are going to have to give feedback. Giving feedback is an important way to foster growth and development. In fact, it is really hard for anyone to grow without some sort of feedback. And while we cannot control how feedback is received, we can make sure that when we give feedback to friends, colleagues and peers, we do it in a way that is most likely to be useful and valuable to them. 

So where do you start? An easy way to give feedback is with the feedback sandwich. 

Start with positive feedback, and begin by acknowledging the strengths in their work. Then give constructive feedback by addressing the problems and issues within the work. Give some suggestions on how to improve the work, with specific examples. In fact, the more positive and specific you are about the work, the more likely the changes will be adopted by the person receiving the feedback. End with positive feedback, reminding the person of their strong points, and offering support in the areas that need improvement. Leave it on a positive note. 

When giving feedback, these are some of the helpful things to keep in mind. Think before you speak. What is it that you want to convey? Be specific. Use examples. Be concise, and stick to no more than 3 unique pieces of feedback in one go – otherwise, it's too much to focus on. Stay focused on the work in the comments, and don’t get personal. Don’t attack the person's ability or personality. Give suggestions and strategies for improvement. Feedback is aimed at helping others to learn, grow and develop. By giving feedback skilfully, you will more likely get others to take your suggestions on board. So the next time you give feedback, try to keep these things in mind. Good luck.

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