Of course it was going to come back on the menu!
How could it be otherwise? Such a simple and powerful tool for learning…
A recent KM4Dev conversation brought back this phoenix to life. And the query that started the conversation was this:
“The problem I am facing is that some members are reluctant to give useful and constructive feedback to their peers. Some say they are too
busy, others do not see the benefit of peer feedback, and yet others
simply lack the skill to provide good peer feedback in writing.”
So why is it people are indeed not seeing the point of feedback? Some of the usual suspects behind lack of engagement, and some feedback-specific obstacles perhaps?
As I enter yet another year of important feedback, this is a great opportunity to unpack our resistance to this particular enabler of learning, and explore one of the pillars of process literacy. The one that gives us access to our ‘blind spots’.
The eternal red herring – I don’t have time! That means it’s just not a priority. We all have some time. Perhaps it just means the value of giving feedback is not really perceived… So let’s explore this point as the second entry in this post…
The point of being ‘too busy’ is a common issue in KM by the way, and you don’t really want to be portrayed in that way…
What’s in it for me?
Now that’s a good one when it comes to feedback. Because what is there not to love about feedback:
- It’s free
- It’s powerful
- It helps you – and it also helps me (help you and others, and even myself directly sometimes)
- It helps the entire system we are part of
- It gets better as you do it more
- It deepens our relationships
- It doesn’t need to take time
- It makes us smarter faster…
For the life of me I just can’t see what resistance anyone can oppose to it. I can only think of two options:
a) Some reluctance because some people from the same group may not be good at giving feedback (see next point in this post) or
b) some reluctance by those who have never experienced directly the power of feedback. And this could be because the feedback they received (or saw being given) wasn’t good (so see next point again). It could also be because they never felt the need to ask for it – they didn’t need help. Or perhaps they found that the time it cost exceeded the value of the outcome?
If it’s a case of never having needed help from others (whether through feedback or otherwise), you may be the smartest person on earth, but still you will only go so far by yourself…
So there might be something else still…
Not good at giving feedback?
Your colleagues (or yourself) might just not be very good at feedback. The consequence might be that they are reticent at giving feedback because it means they’re not comfortable because of their skills, or it could be that the lack of skills of their colleagues to give feedback means they’re not really looking forward to engaging in it.
That is a well founded concern. And at the same time a super easy one to overcome: feedback is like an activity at the gym, it requires exercise. The more you practice it consciously, the better you get at it. And there are myriad of advices about giving feedback out there (just google ‘Giving feedback‘). So no excuse not to give it a go. You can tr dedicated training, coaching, feedback on giving feedback etc. and for sure skills will be progressively built.
Not good at receiving feedback?
Perhaps there’s not much willingness for giving peer feedback because the feedback receiver is not really good at receiving feedback and may react with a lot of irritation or even bouts of anger. That is also well founded, and perhaps related to a deeper problem of trust (see below). But it could also be skills training about receiving feedback.
Some solutions? Read this seminal book. And perhaps also coach the feedback receiver on how they receive feedback, so they get better at it?
This interesting post explores five levels of receiving feedback and what can be done to go some levels up.
Not feeling the trust?
This might simply be one of the critical underlying factors behind the reluctance to provide feedback. Perhaps there just isn’t that confidence in the group, among the people, to engage in feedback. Giving and receiving feedback require an atmosphere of emotional safety and stability, an awareness that everyone is there to help others and has themselves some room to improve. It also takes that ‘growth mindset‘ that always emphasises the potential to develop.
So perhaps there’s a need for something a lot bigger than feedback here, a brave exploration of the factors of tension, disengagement, frustration, fear etc. that is causing this state of affairs in the group?
I’ve just tried and addressed some of the issues shared on KM4Dev and sketched some of the seemingly obvious factors behind the reticence to share feedback. What else would you add to the list of obvious ‘feedback poopers’?
Let me know, share your feedback and let’s all grow together faster, because that’s the promise that feedback delivers, when done in the right climate. And like smiling, the more, the better 😀