How To: Giving and Getting Feedback

How we think about giving and getting feedback strongly influences how well the feedback is received. If we think about it as "criticism," we're less likely to benefit from useful suggestions. However, if we sincerely care about becoming better at what we do, we will value the feedback more - both when we give and when we receive it.
Chris Williams Chris Williams
April 07, 2015

"Kaizen" is a Japanese term adopted in the business world years ago to refer to a culture where ongoing improvement is always a goal no matter what level of success an organization has achieved. From our volunteer surveys, we know that ongoing improvement is a shared value of our volunteers too.

The 2015 survey of Mountaineers volunteers revealed a clear pattern among our most active members: Mountaineers volunteers prefer additional educational opportunities over receiving things like gifts and praise (although everyone liked that too). This means you would like the chance to learn more about your activities and take advantage of professional development. This preference by our volunteers suggests that ongoing improvement is a shared value that is part of our culture. 

At The Mountaineers, our courses require giving and getting feedback on a regular basis. Here are some important concepts on giving - and receiving - feedback:

  • Establish a tone of trust and caring before delivering feedback. Make it clear the feedback is intended to improve and help the recipient (NOT to demoralize, shame, or defend your own behavior). 

  • Invite a person to assess their own performance. This puts them in control and may reveal that they are already aware of the deficits you've noticed. Now you can immediately move into the discussion of how to correct and improve the issue. 

  • Be objective: focus on behaviors and avoid statements about a person's intentions or personality. Too often we are entirely wrong when we try to understand why someone did something in a way we didn't like. If you focus on the behavior rather than the personality, the person receiving the feedback may explain their motivations in a way that helps you focus on a barrier that you were never aware of. 

  • The feedback "sandwich:" if you have to let someone know their actions fell short of your expectations, begin and end the feedback with statements to help build on the positive things they did! 

What about receiving feedback? 

  • Ask for it! This puts you in control of when it is received (and what source it comes from) and can help you prepare yourself for things that may not be easy to hear. 

  • Train yourself to view "negative" feedback as an opportunity to grow. If given in the right spirit, it should help you become an even more awesome leader, instructor, manager, and more! 

  • Don't beat yourself up and take it personally. Remind yourself that not all feedback is 100% accurate. Like most things, you have to consider the source and the perspective available to the person providing it. Evaluate the other person's point of view and what factors might influence their opinion. Take the good, leave the bad, and move on. 
Source: There are literally thousands of pages of research in this subject, but three easily digestible, and well-written citations for what is above can be found herehere, and here

From our Best of the PNW Contest

We know all our volunteers want to bring professionalism to their work with The Mountaineers. Effective, quality, feedback is the tool by which we grow and improve the organization on every level; it is critical to our overall success and happiness.

I recently met with a volunteer coordinator at Seattle Parks & Recreation, who had worked with multiple Mountaineers students and told me that that those members all told her they really appreciated hearing what they needed to work on in order to improve their skills. As a result, her agency looked to us as a model for how to improve that aspect of their programs. Keep up the good work and never stop growing!

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.