When I was at university, I took a module where your results were simply “pass” or “fail”. Pass mark was 40% and I put in the work and passed. But they didn’t tell me my mark – just that I had passed. They didn’t attach a feedback sheet, about where I did well and where I could improve. Just “pass”. And it was so annoying. I wanted to know whether I had just scraped by or passed with flying colours. I wanted that criticism or comment or praise or reaction. I learned that I like feedback. I want to know how to get better. I want that pointer on how I can grow.
Feedback keeps propping up in various shapes and forms during my days at the moment. We’ve had review meetings after Christmas going through feedback from our festive meetings, we’re compiling a Sandhurst Review of the church congregation that Ben and I lead and I’ve been getting personal feedback too as I’ve been doing 360 performance reviews. And it’s been helpful. And it’s been hard.
Feedback takes courage. It requires us to be vulnerable. You need to be vulnerable enough to listen to the feedback and vulnerable enough to risk initiating those hard conversations, being emotionally exposed and venturing into uncertain territory.
And I’m convinced that these conversations are worth having. Feedback leads to transformative change. We are all desperate for feedback as we all want to grow. These conversations were never meant to be easy, they’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is necessary for growth. When we got marks and feedback at school, report cards and exams results, it was always a little unnerving but it was there to help us to recognise areas we were great at and areas to focus on improving.
In our formal review meetings in the office, we split it into 2 sections:
Which parts were great
Where there were opportunities for growth.
We’re building a culture where we know that we’re all on the same team. We all take ownership for the problems. We recognise strengths and celebrate those as well as addressing how to combat weaknesses. If someone’s held accountable, there’s no blame or shaming or pushing the problem towards other people.
Feedback should be a conversation. Any written feedback should be there to initiate dialogue, where you’re sitting on the same side of the table, you know that you’re on the same team and the problem is in front of you. You take the barriers down and are less likely to be defensive and self-protect.
I want to work at developing a culture of feedback. I want to learn to take it well and to offer it to others in a helpful manner. I want to get better at asking for it from my peers and inviting comment. At requesting for advice and being open to opinion. Feedback is hard and a really tricky area to negotiate but honest, vulnerable, “sitting on the same side of the table” feedback inspires growth and progression and is hugely valuable in the end.