Most managers agree that feedback is important for employee growth. Most employees agree with that too. Despite that, many managers actively avoid giving feedback. Just like how your body has a fight-or-flight response to criticism, giving feedback creates a similar response in managers. Instead of facing that anxiety head-on, managers often delay feedback until annual reviews. By that point, the feedback is the least effective.
She argues that you should give feedback more frequently.
Her book provides many self-assessments and exercises that help you move past your reasons for avoiding giving feedback and how to phrase it.
I just finished the book and share my thoughts on it below.
What Are the Big Takeaways from the Book?
#1. More Feedback Is Better. You could've guessed that was the main point based on her book's title, huh? I don't know if she's actually advocating for giving feedback on a daily basis, like her book title suggests. I think that'd make most people (manager and employee alike) go insane, even if it were only positive feedback.
That being said, she does give a good case for why you should give feedback more often. When you do, it feels less like a random attack for the person receiving it. It becomes more of a conversation and a two-way communication (more on that below).
Frequent feedback also allows you to get used to giving it yourself. Instead of building up all this anxiety over what will someone on your team say or do once you give feedback, you can speak more frankly because it comes natural.
#2. Learning Your Feedback Belief System. Out of all the self-assessments and exercises Ms. Carroll had, this was the only one I really enjoyed. You answer yes / no questions regarding common feedback scenarios and she tells you your "feedback belief system" based on your score.
The four "belief systems" are analyzer, empathizer, charger, and motivator.
It turns out I'm tied between an analyzer and an empathizer.
Analyzers want to be accurate. They often withhold feedback because they want to be sure about the facts behind it before they give it. (That sounds like me.) The problem is for analyzers is that feedback is never 100% accurate. At best it's 80-90% accurate because no manager can realistically watch and hover over their employees (nor should they) to gather all the information they need to give completely accurate feedback. By the time you gather all the facts you need, it's too late for the feedback to have any positive impact.
Empathizers have a different problem. They don’t like to inflict pain and want to be positive with their employees. (Also sounds like me.) They may subscribe to the notion that positive feedback is the only feedback to give.
Ms. Carroll gives tips for overcoming these mindsets, which I won't go into here. They're worth checking out though.
#3 - Using COIN Phrases to Give Feedback. Ms. Carroll suggests something called "COIN phrases" to give feedback. That stands for connection, observation, impact, and next steps.
I actually liked this part of the book and think it's useful for giving constructive feedback. Instead of using something like the sandwich method for softening feedback, you give feedback that's tied to the employee's goals. You tell them the observation you made and the impact it has on those goals (and the team overall). Then you provide the next steps for overcoming this barrier.
I think this can work for positive feedback too, especially if you want to emphasize something truly beneficial.
#4 - Make Sure Feedback is a Two-Way Street. This is probably the best point she makes. There's nothing more degrading to a person than hearing feedback and not being allowed to respond with their own. The reason most people loathe and reject feedback is that it feels like an attack against their independence. Ms. Carroll states that in order for frequent feedback to be accepted, you have to take it from your team too. It gives a sense of fairness and equality to it all.
More importantly, you have to act on that feedback. People are far more likely to view it as a conversation and feel it's based on mutual respect if you take their feedback seriously.
Things I Didn’t Like About This Book
#1 - The Book's Exercises Get Old Quick. I'm not a fan of books that require constant written exercises and self-assessments. A few are okay, but an exercise at the end of almost every chapter means I simply stopped doing them.
What was particularly frustrating is how I'm instructed to take a pause from reading and go announce to my team how I'll be implementing "frequent feedback" before I can see what the next steps are. (I most certainly did not complete that step.)
For starters, I'm not going to go implement a plan before I know what the full plan is. Also, big culture and process changes requires buy-in from your team.
That brings me to my next point...
#2 - The Book Is Unrealistic About How You (Effectively) Change the Culture. The first step she outlines for bringing about this culture change is to announce to the whole team at once that you'll be increasing the frequency of feedback and then explain to them the why.
That is not how you effectively bring about culture change.
Most teams have a set of beliefs and a culture ingrained in them. Changing that doesn't come without controversy, especially if you make that decision unilaterally.
Before you ever have that conversation, you should let people know you're looking into how to improve feedback and communication between yourself and the team. Meet with them individually and have frank conversations about how they feel about the state of feedback. Find out if there even is a problem first. Learn if they have anxiety to receiving feedback and why. Also ask them about their communication styles and how they prefer feedback.
Only then do you meet with them as a group. You explain to everyone the broad consensus among the team regarding feedback. You would then suggest this frequent feedback approach as a possible improvement or solution. You explain the benefits you see and how they could solve any problems people currently have with the way they receive feedback. You then get their buy-in to the change.
That, my friends, is the best way to change a culture on a team.
Overall, I’d recommend the book to someone wanting to learn how to give feedback better. The writing quality is decent too, in that it’s legible and doesn’t slow you down with needless jargon and buzzwords. The exercises and self-assessments get old after awhile, but I don't think it detracts from the overall lessons.