Management/Giving Feedback 101

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Giving Feedback 101: Role-playing positive and constructive feedback

We need better feedback mechanisms for people, projects, decisions. Giving and receiving feedback is an integral part of everyone's work at Mozilla. Without the ability of people to give meaningful feedback, we don't have trust and we can't build an effective team.

We put together a small exercise on feedback that managers can run in a group meeting setting. It focuses on some common scenarios that can be role-played to reinforce providing feedback to others.

Testimonials about why this is useful

  • Helps you see how others respond to situations that you might never see them in when you're not in an office
  • Helps remote employees feel more connected and like there's a "culture" they're part of
  • Discussion of different mediums of communication helps to understand communication culture at Mozilla, and specifically how email feels overly formal/like an escalation or punishment to some people (but not all!)
  • Discussions about recurring negative interactions (in irc/bugzilla/wherever) and the need to switch to a medium that provides (better) documentation.

Preparing for this meeting

Many of you have standing meetings where you can simply add this to the agenda. Budget between 30min-1hr, depending on how talkative your attendees are.

Other considerations:

  • Min: 4 people, Max: 8-10 people
  • If you've got people who don't know each other, err on the side of less people
  • Pick 3-4 scenarios for your session. Don't try to do them all in 1 hr. Be sure to have a mix of the positive and the constructive feedback examples.
  • There might be some resistance to giving positive feedback, so please reinforce that, yes, we need to do this.

A couple ways this can work:

  • Specific feedback team can give to each other in the session
  • True role-playing of a theoretical scenario where someone gives specific feedback aloud, and the rest of the team weighs in.
  • Re-telling a scenario that occurred at some point in the past
  • We are trying to emphasize the "true role-playing" activity.

Running the meeting

Here are a few different situations where you could give someone feedback. Think about one of these situations and discuss with a group. Maybe two people can act it out!

  • Give someone a specific compliment on something they accomplished.
  • Someone put a service into production and it failed. You have some concerns. Raise those concerns with the other person.
  • Your manager just assigned your quarterly goal to someone else. This is a project you really wanted to work on. Raise this concern with your manager.
  • You just got some aggressive, insulting bugmail. How do you respond? (** this one seems to trigger feelings)
  • Someone on another team fixed a longstanding nit and made your life better. How do you thank them?
  • You have a project that you'd like to collaborate with someone who's been at Mozilla for many years and knows a lot about the topic. They are a very busy person. How do you convince this person to work with you?
  • You just attended a workweek, and everything went very smoothly. You feel like you were really productive. How do you thank those that were involved in the planning?
  • You feel defensive after reading an IRC comment someone made that wasn't insulting, but maybe just direct or blunt. How do you handle this?

Things to think about before giving feedback

  • You can ask another person for help and you can role-play BEFORE you give feedback
  • Thinking about another person's good qualities, and compliments you could give them will help get you in the frame of mind to give constructive feedback before you give it.
  • Consider the action separately from the person, always.

Wrapping up the meeting

At the end of the session moderator should reiterate the following points:

  • You've just role-played this -- if you're in a situation where you need to use these skills remember that you can ask another person for help and you can role-play BEFORE you give feedback
  • Re-iterate the points from the Things to think about before giving feedback section above.

Gather feedback about the session from participants

  • Find out in 1x1s or later meetings what people thought of the feedback session.
  • Are there other scenarios that have come up that we could discuss/role-play?
  • Reiterate that management expects that you to be giving feedback.