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Giving and receiving Feedback

How to give and receive feedback in a mentoring relationship

Two-way feedback is a super important part of any mentoring relationship. It’s also an essential ingredient in career development work. That’s why Project Thrive participants made use of the continuous feedback loop to learn how to give and receive feedback, and to make sure everyone is on the same page and communication is honest, open and constructive. Here’s how it works.

The Importance of Feedback

Feedback is such a pivotal part of mentorship. Both mentee and mentor need to receive and deliver feedback to make mentorship work.

As mentor, you’ll need to be able to discuss all aspects of the mentoring process openly, across topics such as:

  • Your mentee’s preferred coaching style,
  • How the sessions are working for them, and
  • How they best receive feedback.

As a mentee, your mentor will need to chat to you about everything and anything that might help you grow, such as:

  • Your general progress,
  • How you responded to a particular challenge at work,
  • If the approach you discussed together was effective or not,
  • How you show up to sessions, and
  • If they feel the current approach is working for you both.

We’ve seen major improvements in our mentoring pairs where they’ve been able to implement feedback principles such as the continuous feedback loop.

The Continuous Feedback Loop

The continuous feedback loop is a model that builds ongoing feedback and plans to improve into everyday operations. Within the mentoring dynamic, the continuous feedback loop helps to establish non-hierarchical thinking partnerships, where both parties can grow together.

In a mentoring relationship dynamic, this might look like a mentor giving feedback regarding a mentee's lack of communication between their mentoring sessions. The mentee will then take time to reflect on the feedback. Upon reflection, the mentee gives feedback to the mentor that they don’t feel completely comfortable communicating with their mentor between mentoring sessions as the mentor does not always respond, which makes the mentee feel like a nuisance. Continuing the loop, the mentor will then also take time to reflect on this feedback and together the mentor and mentee will formulate a plan for communication going forward.

The continuous feedback loop helps open up dialogue, and since all individuals are learning and growing on an ongoing basis, it also increases engagement. It also builds a foundation of trust and honesty, because feedback is reciprocal.

Preparing your feedback

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to feedback, here are some guidelines that’ll help you get going. Start with the feedback checklist.

Feedback must be timely

It’s best to provide feedback as soon as possible after the situation requiring feedback occurs. This way, the feedback receiver will be able to accurately recall the details of the situation and reflect on the feedback received. If possible, provide feedback within 24–48 hours.

Prepare your feedback ahead of time, using the SIA model

The SIA model is a framework you can use to make sure you cover the three essential components of constructive feedback. SIA stands for situation, impact and action.

  • Situation: The specific event you’d like to discuss
  • Impact: The impact or outcome of what happened
  • Action: Next steps and actions that the individual can take to improve or remedy the situation

For example, if your mentor notices that you tend not to speak up or assert yourself in group settings in the work environment, they might provide you with the following feedback using the SIA model:

“I noticed that you didn’t contribute any points to the mentee goal-setting brainstorming session yesterday. From our chats, I know you have a lot of great ideas and I feel that the others missed out on hearing these in the session. Next time, you can try writing down your thoughts ahead of time so you feel better about speaking up, even if you’re feeling nervous.”

Spend Time Getting Into the Right Headspace and Getting Your Emotions in Check

Before the feedback session, make sure to prepare exactly what points you want to discuss and what the desired outcome would be. By clearly articulating your thoughts and considering the potential outcomes ahead of the session, you will likely be able to deliver your feedback more constructively and without becoming emotional.

Think About The Right Place and Time To Give Your Feedback

Receiving feedback is difficult, regardless of how constructive it may be. So finding the right place and time to give feedback to someone can really influence how they respond to it. If possible, always deliver feedback in private. The feedback receiver will likely be more responsive to your feedback than if you were to deliver it in front of a larger group.

While giving feedback can be scary for some of us, remember that honest and kind feedback is a gift to others and will equip them to improve.

Radical candour

Providing constructive feedback can feel uncomfortable for some people, and it’s often easier to avoid challenging someone when you think they could have done something better. But while this approach might feel more comfortable, it’s often unhelpful and that person will miss out on knowledge that could’ve helped them to grow in the long term.

This is an example of ruinous empathy. It’s a form of communication within the Radical Candour model that you should try to avoid.

But first, what’s Radical Candour? The term, coined by Kim Scott in her book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity , refers to a framework for providing feedback and guidance kindly and directly. Radical Candour purports that all forms of feedback sit somewhere on a spectrum where empathy and candour intersect.

The framework guides us to provide feedback from a place of caring, and to do this by challenging directly, i.e. we care enough to have the tough conversations, instead of sugar-coating the truth.

SilenceChallenge Directly
UncaringManipulative Insincerity - Individuals approaching feedback from this dynamic neither care for the person they are engaging with nor challenge them with feedback that will help them to grow. Instead, they may be polite on the surface, but critical behind closed doors.Obnoxious Aggression - The individual does challenge directly, but they do this without care for the individual receiving the feedback. This equates to brutal honesty and feedback that may be unkind.
Care PersonallyRuinous Empathy - When we approach a situation with caring, but don't speak up, we fall into ruinous empathy. In this dynamic, we put our concern for someone's feelings above their long-term potential for growth. We may default to praise and provide unspecific or sugar-coated feedback.Radical Candour - The individual provides feedback that is kind and clear, and praise is sincere and specific.

Responding to Feedback

Receiving feedback is also something that we need to learn to do well. When we don’t receive feedback well, we can take constructive criticism personally, dismiss new insights or not take the time to really try and hear what the person is trying to communicate to us. Wanting to get better at receiving feedback? Here are some tips that may help:

Get Yourself Into The Right Headspace

To receive feedback effectively, it’s important that you’re prepared to receive the feedback and that you take the time to reflect on the feedback before you respond. In this way, you’ll be applying the principles of the continuous feedback loop, so you’re always growing and improving.

Focus on active listening

When receiving feedback, try to listen without judgement or preconceptions, and avoid jumping to conclusions. Focus on what is actually being said. And if you’re unsure of something, ask.

Keep an eye out for patterns

When reflecting on the feedback, consider the following:.

  • Are there parts of this feedback that you’ve never heard before?
  • Is there overlap with previous feedback? What aligns and what doesn’t?
  • Are there patterns there that might point to a specific development area?
  • Are there aspects of the feedback that you disagree with?

Respond to Feedback

This is an opportunity for both parties to learn how to deliver and receive feedback effectively. You can share the thoughts and ideas that the feedback brought up for you, as well as your plans to implement changes moving forward.

By putting these feedback tools and techniques into practice, you’re ready to start your journey of growth, either in your current role or by joining a mentorship programme like Project Thrive.