How to identify and work with good feedback?

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Written by B and photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

How to identify and work with good feedback?

Is it right?

Once you have understood what the feedback is about you should start to evaluate the quality of feedback and there are two general, most important aspects, I think you should reflect on before you decide to act upon criticism.

Who is giving feedback?

In another text we already discussed that who is giving you feedback might hugely impact the motives and quality of feedback. So, you need to understand: Has the person the competencies to evaluate my work? Be careful: Sometimes superiors don’t necessarily have always the competencies because they might have never done certain tasks themselves, or don’t know about the effort it might take to change certain things, or because they don’t know about your individual strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a peer or a step-ahead-employee can give you quite valuable insights.  Even a cleaning lady can give you great and valuable advice. For example regarding office policies, dos and don’ts and maybe the power struggles within the company. It depends on the subject. Don’t be dazzled by titles of business cards but ask yourself or that person about their real competencies to give you feedback in that special situation. 

Is it „workable“ feedback?

Secondly, you need to assess the quality of feedback. To me, good feedback is something I can work with. It is precise and positive and might even give me suggestions where to start with over working my work. On the other hand, it is something I can work with. So, something I already have the competencies for or the resources to acquire the competencies or get the help. For example, I can get help from colleagues or other departments to implement the changes. The feedback that leaves me totally alone with extremely high unspecific expectations and no resources or help is not something you can not really work with. Therefore, it is quite worthless. Once, you are still in the discussion session and you realize you’ve gotten bad feedback ask for specification and advice regarding the implementation. Either you then get better feedback or the other person realizes that the expectations were set way too high. That can help you to manage expectations with your superiors and reduce later disappointment once you don’t implement their ideas. 

Understand the criticism

How to best learn from feedback?

„Why should I bother, I will never do such an assignment again.“ That was the reply of my friend, I discussed feedback with, once I had told him that in his special case he HAD received quite workable and sound feedback. Luckily, I know him for a long time. I know about the feedback on earlier occasions on his work and this allowed me to show him that he was horribly wrong with his perception. That the feedback he got this time and the mistakes he made this time were the same as on earlier occasions. 

We often fail to learn from criticism because we assume that we can’t apply the feedback to future tasks and will never need the competencies again. Especially, during the university time. HOWEVER, that is a deception. It leads us to make the same mistakes over and over again because we don’t see the roots of it.

Competencies ≠ content

When you are writing a text, you are practicing your writing skills. When you are presenting something, you train your presentation skills. The content might vary in future but the basic competencies remain the same. So, feedback is in any case valuable.

 Understanding roots and patterns

But how can you even learn from feedback on a topic you will never ever write or talk about again? Find the root of the criticism. In the case of my friend the lecturer told him that he hadn’t formulated a real „research question“. So, practically that he was missing focus and the core of the work. As I knew previous works of my friend I showed him that he had missed the core point and lacked focus earlier. Because he didn’t realize what that meant to lack a research question, he failed to see a pattern. But that is how you learn. Reflect on previous work and search for patterns. Learn from them and practice on your weak points. You also can learn in this way from the mistakes of other people.

Published on Saturday 27th November 2021

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