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Better
Fearless Feedback for
Software Teams
@eacarlson
Hello!
• Hi! I’m Erika.
• (I’m @eacarlson, too.)
• I’m a software developer.
• I work at Detroit Labs in Detroit,
Michigan...
Introduction
• What is feedback?
• Why is feedback important to teams?
• Why do teams struggle with giving and
receiving f...
What is Feedback?
• A response to a person’s behavior
and/or performance, shared with the
person for the purposes of:
• In...
Types of Feedback
• Affirmative
• Reinforce behavior & increase the likelihood that
it will be continued/repeated
• Constru...
Why Does it Matter?
• Feedback is one of the best tools we have for
improving individual and team performance
• Feedback i...
Why Is it Difficult?
• Teams struggle with feedback because people
struggle with feedback
• Giving and receiving feedback a...
Managing Fear
• Fears represent opportunities for growth
• Fears are real, but they are not an irrevocable part of who we
...
Feedback 101
• Be specific, thoughtful, and direct
• Structure: Situation, Behavior, Impact
• In (SITUATION), when you did ...
1. Listen actively.
• While you are receiving feedback, listen
intentionally
• Listen to listen, not to respond
• Be consc...
2. Say “Thank you.”
• Accept positive feedback graciously,
without denying or minimizing
• Say “Thank you.”
• Accept const...
3. Respond (later).
• When you receive constructive feedback,
take some time to assess your emotions
• Try to complete thi...
4. Assume the best.
• Always assume positive intent
• When you give constructive feedback, assume
that the other person wa...
5. Be specific.
• Whether feedback is affirmative or constructive, it should
be specific
• Name actions and behaviors; quote ...
6. Let it land.
• In order for critical feedback to effective, it
needs to be direct and unmitigated
• Delivering critical...
7. Be collaborative.
• Ask before delivering unsolicited
constructive feedback
• Give the other person options as to when ...
8. Avoid anti-patterns.
• Don’t attack someone’s character
(Feedback is about what a person did,
not who they are)
• No re...
9. Lead by example.
• Good feedback culture starts with leadership
• Your team notices what you model
• Proactive steps: r...
10. Practice!
• The best way to get good at giving and receiving
feedback is to practice
• Practice with a teammate or fri...
Feedback Survey
• What are the first words that come to mind when I think of the term “feedback”?
• How do I feel about giv...
Challenges
• Give a teammate specific, thoughtful, affirmative
feedback
• Ask a teammate (or supervisor) to tell you one thi...
Additional Resources
• Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and
Art of Receiving Feedback Well - Douglas
Stone & Sheila He...
Erika
Carlson
@eacarlson
erika@detroitlabs.com
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Better - Fearless Feedback for Software Teams

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The feedback loop is easily the most effective way to improve individual and team performance. When it is given well and received willingly, feedback can be a powerful ally in growing happy teams who work together effectively to deliver great software. Here's the challenge: giving and receiving feedback are skills, and many of us haven't had the chance to develop those skills. Maybe we find giving feedback intimidating. Maybe receiving feedback makes us feel defensive. Maybe we simply haven't had much positive experience with open, honest conversations about performance. It's not easy to do feedback "right", and when it is given badly or received poorly, feedback can cause a team's relationships to disintegrate. This talk will introduce the fundamentals of effective feedback; provide strategies for giving, receiving, and processing feedback; and discuss the challenges and rewards of using feedback as a tool to improve team performance.

Published in: Technology
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Better - Fearless Feedback for Software Teams

  1. 1. Better Fearless Feedback for Software Teams @eacarlson
  2. 2. Hello! • Hi! I’m Erika. • (I’m @eacarlson, too.) • I’m a software developer. • I work at Detroit Labs in Detroit, Michigan. • I train and coach software developers.
  3. 3. Introduction • What is feedback? • Why is feedback important to teams? • Why do teams struggle with giving and receiving feedback? • How do we get better at feedback? • How do I know? @eacarlson
  4. 4. What is Feedback? • A response to a person’s behavior and/or performance, shared with the person for the purposes of: • Increasing his/her awareness • Shaping his/her behavior @eacarlson
  5. 5. Types of Feedback • Affirmative • Reinforce behavior & increase the likelihood that it will be continued/repeated • Constructive • Re-shape behavior or deter it from being continued/repeated • Passive • Devalue or condone behavior through inaction @eacarlson
  6. 6. Why Does it Matter? • Feedback is one of the best tools we have for improving individual and team performance • Feedback improves communication, builds trust, and helps teammates to collaborate more effectively, speeding problem-solving • Feedback helps teams to solve problems early, addressing issues before they become toxic @eacarlson
  7. 7. Why Is it Difficult? • Teams struggle with feedback because people struggle with feedback • Giving and receiving feedback are both complex skills • Most people haven’t had the opportunity or resources to develop good feedback skills • Giving and receiving feedback effectively requires openness, maturity, self-awareness, courage, vulnerability, confidence, and trust @eacarlson
  8. 8. Managing Fear • Fears represent opportunities for growth • Fears are real, but they are not an irrevocable part of who we are • When you’re feeling anxiety about giving or receiving feedback, ask yourself the following questions: • What am I afraid of? • What’s the underlying fear? • What steps could I take to overcome this fear? • What could I gain by moving beyond this fear? @eacarlson
  9. 9. Feedback 101 • Be specific, thoughtful, and direct • Structure: Situation, Behavior, Impact • In (SITUATION), when you did (BEHAVIOR), the outcome was (IMPACT). • Example (Affirmative): “On today’s phone call, when you praised our demo, the team was inspired and motivated to repeat that success.” • Example (Constructive): “In yesterday’s client meeting, when you interrupted and talked over me, I felt frustrated and hurt.” @eacarlson
  10. 10. 1. Listen actively. • While you are receiving feedback, listen intentionally • Listen to listen, not to respond • Be conscious of your body language • If you are receiving constructive feedback, it may be helpful to confirm understanding: “What I’m hearing you say is that it’s disruptive to you when I drop by your desk without asking first, and that’s making you feel frustrated.” @eacarlson
  11. 11. 2. Say “Thank you.” • Accept positive feedback graciously, without denying or minimizing • Say “Thank you.” • Accept constructive feedback without arguing, pushing back, or getting defensive • Say “Thank you for the feedback.” @eacarlson
  12. 12. 3. Respond (later). • When you receive constructive feedback, take some time to assess your emotions • Try to complete this sentence: “I feel _____ about this feedback” • Sit with the feedback until you feel less emotional about it • Decide if and how to act @eacarlson
  13. 13. 4. Assume the best. • Always assume positive intent • When you give constructive feedback, assume that the other person was acting from positive intentions • When you receive constructive feedback, assume that the other person is sharing that feedback because they are invested in your growth • Feedback is a gift for the purpose of helping you grow @eacarlson
  14. 14. 5. Be specific. • Whether feedback is affirmative or constructive, it should be specific • Name actions and behaviors; quote directly if appropriate • Generic: “Nice job. You did great!” • Specific: “You were thorough but very easy to follow; I really liked the story you told about Project X. I also thought you were very enthusiastic, and that made it fun to listen to you.” • Don’t try to deliver too much feedback at once @eacarlson
  15. 15. 6. Let it land. • In order for critical feedback to effective, it needs to be direct and unmitigated • Delivering critical constructive feedback can feel difficult and uncomfortable • Attempts to “soften” the feedback can lessen its impact • The “compliment sandwich” can do more harm than good @eacarlson
  16. 16. 7. Be collaborative. • Ask before delivering unsolicited constructive feedback • Give the other person options as to when (as long as it’s timely) and how (as long as it’s reasonable) they would like to receive feedback • Confirm understanding • Follow up @eacarlson
  17. 17. 8. Avoid anti-patterns. • Don’t attack someone’s character (Feedback is about what a person did, not who they are) • No retribution for feedback • Don’t give constructive feedback in public • Avoid anonymous feedback @eacarlson
  18. 18. 9. Lead by example. • Good feedback culture starts with leadership • Your team notices what you model • Proactive steps: regular 1:1s, structured peer feedback, all-team retros • Use structure as scaffolding • The ultimate goal is for feedback to happen organically in the moment @eacarlson
  19. 19. 10. Practice! • The best way to get good at giving and receiving feedback is to practice • Practice with a teammate or friend • Find a mentor (colleague, supervisor, or professional coach) • Organize a group of colleagues to facilitate peer feedback • Organize (or request) a feedback training for your team @eacarlson
  20. 20. Feedback Survey • What are the first words that come to mind when I think of the term “feedback”? • How do I feel about giving affirmative feedback? • How do I feel about receiving affirmative feedback? • How do I feel about giving constructive feedback? • How do I feel about receiving constructive feedback? • In which area(s) do I most need to improve? • Am I receiving sufficient feedback from my team on a regular basis? • Am I giving sufficient feedback to my team on a regular basis? • Is there someone I’m actively avoiding giving feedback to right now? Who? Why? • What is one thing I could do this week to improve my feedback skills? @eacarlson
  21. 21. Challenges • Give a teammate specific, thoughtful, affirmative feedback • Ask a teammate (or supervisor) to tell you one thing you do well and one thing you could do better • Create a #thanks Slack channel (or other forum) where teammates can acknowledge each other for a job well done • Bonus: Start a conversation with your team: “How do you think we’re doing at giving and receiving feedback? How could we be better?” @eacarlson
  22. 22. Additional Resources • Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well - Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen • The 5 Keys to Mindful Communication - Susan Gillis Chapman • Crucial Conversations - Kerry Patterson • What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication - Ike Lasater @eacarlson
  23. 23. Erika Carlson @eacarlson erika@detroitlabs.com

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