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.
Fearless Feedback for
• Hi! I’m Erika.
• (I’m @eacarlson, too.)
• I’m a software developer.
• I work at Detroit Labs in Detroit,
• I train and coach software developers.
• What is feedback?
• Why is feedback important to teams?
• Why do teams struggle with giving and
• How do we get better at feedback?
• How do I know?
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
Types of Feedback
• Reinforce behavior & increase the likelihood that
it will be continued/repeated
• Re-shape behavior or deter it from being
• Devalue or condone behavior through inaction
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
Why Is it Difﬁcult?
• Teams struggle with feedback because people
struggle with feedback
• Giving and receiving feedback are both complex
• 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
• Fears represent opportunities for growth
• Fears are real, but they are not an irrevocable part of who we
• 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?
• Be speciﬁc, thoughtful, and direct
• Structure: Situation, Behavior, Impact
• In (SITUATION), when you did (BEHAVIOR), the outcome
• 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
1. Listen actively.
• While you are receiving feedback, listen
• 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.”
2. Say “Thank you.”
• Accept positive feedback graciously,
without denying or minimizing
• Say “Thank you.”
• Accept constructive feedback without
arguing, pushing back, or getting
• Say “Thank you for the feedback.”
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
4. Assume the best.
• Always assume positive intent
• When you give constructive feedback, assume
that the other person was acting from positive
• 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
5. Be speciﬁc.
• Whether feedback is afﬁrmative or constructive, it should
• 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
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
• The “compliment sandwich” can do more
harm than good
7. Be collaborative.
• Ask before delivering unsolicited
• 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
• Conﬁrm understanding
• Follow up
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
• Avoid anonymous feedback
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
• 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
• Organize a group of colleagues to facilitate peer
• Organize (or request) a feedback training for your
• 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?
• What is one thing I could do this week to improve my feedback skills?
• Give a teammate speciﬁc, thoughtful, afﬁrmative
• 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?”
• 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