Feedback conversations are the core of personal and professional growth for our team members and ourselves. According to research conducted by TruQu:
Feedback can come in the form of "praise" for things team members do well, and in the form of "tips" pertaining to improvement areas. At GitLab, we encourage both types of feedback on a regular basis!
A few ways in which feedback is provided at GitLab are:
Sid (GitLab CEO and Co-founder) and the Learning & Development team discuss guidance on giving and reciving feedback during a CEO Handbook Learning Session. During the discussion, they discuss the following topics:
Give constructive feedback in the smallest group as possible, be specific by discussing an example. Make the discussion improvement orientated and make sure you deliver feeback when your not upset. (Sid Sijbrandij, GitLab CEO and co-founder)
Feedback on improvement areas can sometimes feel like this:
Giving feedback can be a scary process which makes it hard to do. This is because there are fears of damaging the relationship, being wrong, losing face or hurting the person. Holding back on providing feedback because you feel it isn't your place (if you are a peer) or believing it won't make a difference are also some reasons why we hold back.
The consequences of holding back can have a significant impact to GitLab's culture. Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002) cites the following five consequences:
“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.“ ~Mark Sanborn
The habit of seeking feedback may not be easy to develop, but failing to seek honest input from your team can lead to reduced psychological safety, loss of trust, the deterioration of relationships, and ultimately disengagement. The impact on the performance and well-being of your team carries a heavy price.
In this video, Dr. Jeb Hurley, Co-founder of Xmetryx, takes a look at why some leaders choose to avoid feedback, even when they have ample evidence that shows its benefits. He discusses why, if you want to play like a champion, you must become hungry for feedback and learn to give it as well as receive it wisely.
For additional reading, here’s an article on how Brain Science is Turning Feedback Inside-Out
Note: The entire Remote Team Leadership Micro-course is part of a TrustMetryx subscription. Learn more
"Radical Candor™ just means Care Personally AND Challenge Directly. Why does something so simple feel radical?" Source. There is a video below from Kim Malone Scott titled Radical Candor-The Surprising Secret to being a good Boss which explains this crucial element of getting feedback right.
Radical Candor can be applied to giving constructive feedback:
For many, it is more comfortable to give feedback to, and receive feedback from, those with whom you have already established trust. Somehow, the trust makes it easier to assume good intent and to be boldly honest with each other. Often, however, we need to provide feedback benefiting from trust before that trust has been earned.
It is inevitable that at some point difficult feedback will need to be given. This type of feedback is actually extremely valuable if delivered correctly. Another important factor is to consider the individual and be prepared for how they might react. You may receive one or a combination of the following responses:
The last point is what we want everyone to be able to do. The best way to ensure you deliver feedback is to be prepared. You can do this by asking yourself some questions beforehand. These will help you to balance heart and mind, such as:
The following suggestions, considerations, and models can be applied and used as a guideline when providing both positive feedback and feedback on improvement areas. Recognition is also an essential element of feedback.
The Situation-Behavior-Impact (S-B-I) Model helps structure feedback in a manner that makes it easily understandable.
Situation - Define the when and where by anchoring in time and place.
Behavior - Describe the observable behavior and how it was applied.
Impact - Describe how the other person’s action affected you or others experiences and thinking.
Invest time in learning about how to most effectively communicate feedback to team members. One of the interesting things about thanking people is that culturally and personally some people prefer more or less public thanks. We should get to know our team members well enough to understand how best to share positive feedback.
GitLab has team members from many different cultures and backgrounds. Everyone responds to things differently. You may need to adapt your tone and style according to the individual and the relationship you have with them. Some things to think about are:
We recommend you review GitLab's Cross-Cultural Collaboration Guide!
Why it's important to document:
Where to document:
On 2020-06-08 we held three Live Learning sessions to cover how to deliver feedback effectively using the guidelines above. This recording is from the second session and includes content as well as a Q&A portion. The content in the video below follows along with this slide deck and meeting agenda. We also used Mentimeter during the sessions to ask the attendees questions. Team members can view the Mentimeter results.
Receiving feedback well is an important skill to have not just at work, but in life in general. Receiving constructive and even positive feedback can be difficult. Our brains want to protect us from any potential dangers, and receiving feedback can be perceived by the brain as a physical threat. We have outlined some guidelines and tips to help with this.
In an all-remote organization, Managers model a culture of feedback that promotes ongoing feedback that happens throughout the year. Feedback does not have to wait until performance evaluations, it can happen anytime and in real-time. Managers can develop their people through positive and constructive forms of feedback.
Skills and behavior of the modeling a culture of feedback manager competency:
On 2020-02-25 we held three Live Learning sessions to cover how to receive feedback effectively using the guidelines above. This recording is from the first session and includes content as well as a Q&A portion. The content follows along with this slide deck, and the Q&A follows along with this meeting agenda.
While not always immediately thought of as a form of feedback, recognition is one of the most essential forms of providing feedback in the workplace.
When giving credit to team members, it is important to be precise about both their accomplishment and the impact of their accomplishment. Please review the example below:
"Thank you First Last for helping to troubleshoot sessions on XYZ tickets so we could resolve them inside SLO."
Precise Feedback That Includes impact:
"Thank you First Last for helping to troubleshoot sessions on XYZ tickets so we could resolve them inside SLO. This really helps to make customers happier with our solutions and also helped our team to learn how to resolve things like this faster in the future."
"What is worthy of recognition?" is a question we sometimes ask ourselves. The table below illustrates a few examples of recognition reasons and forms in which we can recognize each other synchronously and asynchronously.
|What should team members be recognized for?||Async Recognition Examples||Sync Recognition Examples|
|If I hear or see any team member within or outside of my immediate team, excelling with respect to CREDIT||Thank You Channel or another Slack Channel (Send followup email, cc'ing their manager. Emails are more permanent than Slack. Also, managers can use this feedback when evaluating their team members towards the end of the year), Comment in a related issue (cc'ing their manager), Add highlights section to weekly team meetings, Add high-fives section to retrospectives||Sync Team Meeting, Skip Level Meetings|
|If a team member has gone through a significant challenge but remained transparent in explaining those challenges||Slack Private DM||Sync 1-1|
|If a team member(s) completes a high impact Epic / Issue either quickly or that they worked on over multiple releases.||Team Slack Channel, Feature Slack Channel, Comment in the related Epic / Issue, Add highlights section to weekly team meetings, Add high-fives section to retrospectives||Sync 1-1, Sync Weekly Team Meetings, Skip Level Meetings|
|If a team member has recently undergone a reorganization. Truth be told, these reorganizations create stronger, super team members :wink: with a breadth of knowledge across the codebase and does have some positive impact. This deserves a thank you for being agile and flexible for GitLab and for all of their contributions and accomplishments from their original team||Slack Private DMs, Team Slack Channels, Feature Slack Channels||Weekly Team Meetings, Skip Level Meetings|
|Any impactful Security / Quality achievement||Team Slack Channels, Feature Slack Channels, Add highlights section to weekly team meetings, Add high-fives section to retrospectives||Weekly Team Meetings, Skip Level Meetings|
|Engagement with a Community Contributor on a very large MR||Team Slack Channels, Add highlights section to weekly team meetings, Add high-fives section to retrospectives||Weekly Team Meetings, Skip Level Meetings|
At least quarterly, team members attend Skip Level Meetings. It is recommended that some preparation be done prior to this meeting to learn about the communication style and personality of the team members attending. Skip Level Meetings provide a great opportunity to congratulate team members on their accomplishments and to personally thank them for their work.
Recognition can be given in a variety of forums:
Take a moment to identify situations in which you or your team are saying "Thank You" to the same person or team too often. Recognition is essential, but if it becomes very frequent, it can start to be perceived as less sincere.
If the same team member or team is going above and beyond their job responsibility on a regular basis, the best way to say thank you is to recognize this pattern of overachievement.