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Lesson #1: Good feedback is a gift
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I’m glad you’re here!
Good feedback is a gift.
I think we’ve all been in a position where we’ve received feedback from someone that was either:
Completely vague (“you’re doing great” or “I’d like to see more effort from you”)
Inaccurate/harmful (receiving feedback on work your team didn’t do or worse, feedback that feels like a personal attack on you)
Not given at the right time (something that happened weeks/months ago or when you’re having a particularly difficult day)
As leaders, good feedback not only helps your team grow but helps leaders in other organizations improve their teams too. For example, if one of your directs needs more specific information on support tickets, providing feedback to the leader of the support team will not just help that one engineer; you’re also helping the entire team and anyone else who interacts with them.
Whenever I need to deliver feedback, I always ask myself four questions:
Am I being specific enough with my feedback?
Can I provide recent examples that relate to my feedback?
Am I framing the feedback in a way that it’s about the action and not the person?
Is this the right time to be giving feedback?
This information may not be particularly revolutionary, but I want to emphasize the last bullet point in particular – one that often gets overlooked. Giving constructive feedback is likely to be more accepted when the individual on the receiving end is prepared to receive the feedback. Avoid the nondescript “hey, can we talk?” or even worse, the zero-context Google Meet link sent over Slack.
Instead, ask them if you can hop on a quick call to provide some feedback. The goal should be to provide immediate feedback wherever possible.
Don’t just do this when you’re giving constructive feedback – I encourage you to use this same format when delivering positive feedback too!
Lastly, you should be asking your team for feedback too! Fostering an environment where you and your team can both give and receive feedback builds trust and compassion. You can teach your team to deliver feedback in this same format. It may be easier to start by creating an avenue for anonymous feedback before asking for direct feedback from your team. Build trust first. Show you take their feedback seriously and action on it.
What I’m reading
Here’s my review on the Book List page:
Summary: An Elegant Puzzle cuts right to the chase of specific situations you’ll likely encounter as an Engineering Manager, from team organization to stepping up as a Product Manager when needed to handling technical debt. Larson wrote this based on his experience at Digg, Uber, and Stripe.
Why I recommend it: This book is a great desk reference to use as a resource when you encounter new challenges as a manager. I was drawn to the book initially because it’s specific to engineering management, but it can absolutely apply to other managerial roles. Get the hardcover edition - it’s a beautiful book.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
I’m currently deep into organization design strategy right now - how to structure effective teams, how to adjust the teams as a company grows, and how to ensure you can minimize disruptions when organizational structure needs to change.
Team Topologies should help with this, and I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts on the topic as well. I really liked this one from LinearB!
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