Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Feedback and Goals

2022-05-14 — Michael Haupt

Here's another note on feedback, after one on feedback as a two-way street, and one on delivering feedback.

Today's entry is about this great piece on feedback. The piece takes a somewhat narrowed view on what feedback is, making it all about providing "information about how someone is doing in their effort to reach a particular set of goals", and introduces a tripartite view, naming the different forms of feedback "appreciation", "coaching", and "evaluation". Narrowing the concept down like this may look like an undesirable restriction at first - recall that my usual take is that feedback can be about any behaviour and impact. It's not a problem to accept the article's take as one particular, and very focused, framework. It has a lot of merit.

The article's approach, then, is about feedback as an assessment tool on the road to reaching goals. Appreciation is reinforcing what's working; coaching is understanding and addressing road bumps; and evaluation is deeply and honestly assessing where things are off. The article provides a wealth of details about this framework, including suggestions for how to frame conversations. It also sheds light on some pitfalls, two of which I find particularly important.

First, it's easy to overemphasise appreciation, leading to a culture where "being nice" is deemed better than "being kind". This is expressed in lots of praise flying around, and the amount of honest evaluation and coaching not matching that. It means that the real problems aren't touched upon, but sugar-coated by exaggerating praise. It's important to understand that one can give highly critical feedback whilst being kind.

Second, it's easy to underappreciate coaching, which is, after all, about approaching a situation with curiosity and the intent to understand. A coaching mindset makes feedback a two-way street, and makes it more about the person receiving the feedback than about the one giving it. It also empowers the receiver to finding a solution themselves, instead of being force-fed a desirable behaviour mandate.

Tags: work