I’m part of the Atomic Accelerator, a program designed to help recent college graduates “catch up” to the role of a senior developer. We meet several times a week to discuss readings that help further develop our skills as consultants, software developers, and people.

Recently, the members of Cell Gamma read Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.

Three Types of Feedback

The book describes three types of feedback. Each type of feedback is necessary for growth, and each seeks to accomplish a different purpose.

Appreciation

To see, acknowledge, connect, motivate, thank

Appreciation is fundamental to helping you feel like you belong. Without it, relationships tend to be less friendly. Appreciation can make us feel like the work we are doing is recognized and understood. It motivates us to continue the work we’re doing.

Being seen, feeling understood by others, matters deeply… We never outgrow the need to hear someone say, “Wow, look at you!” And we never outgrow the need for those flashes of acknowledgment that say, “Yes, I see you. I ‘get’ you. You Matter.”

Coaching

To help the receiver learn or improve or to address the giver’s feelings or an imbalance in the relationship

The aim of coaching is to help you learn and grow. When you receive coaching, you are accepting the giver’s advice on how to improve. A growth mindset is necessary for you to internalize the giver’s advice and to grow from it.

Evaluation

To rate or rank against a set of standards, to align expectations, to inform decision making

Evaluation is the most difficult to give and to receive. Evaluation tells the receiver where they stand from the giver’s perspective. It’s only a perspective. Understanding where the perspective is coming from is important not only for your personal growth but to improving your relationship with the giver.

Evaluations are always comparisons… against others or against a particular set of standards. “You are not a good husband” is shorthand for “You are not a good husband compared with what I hoped for in a husband” or “compared with my saintly father” or “compared with my last three husbands”.

Why it Matters

It’s important for the receiver to communicate what type of feedback they’re looking for from the giver. Let me give you an example.

It’s the end of year. As a boss, you have to evaluate your employees on their performance, specifically Billy and Bob who work directly under you. Pleased with how hard they’ve been working, you decide to keep the meetings short and simple and tell them both that they’re doing a great job and that you are thankful for their hard work.

Billy is ecstatic to hear this news as he was feeling extremely anxious and underappreciated. He tells you that he’s very thankful and is looking forward to the next year with you.

Unfortunately, Bob just thanks you and leaves in a hurry. In his head, he came in expecting to be evaluated so he could know what he needs to improve on. Instead, he thinks that he received generic praise. The appreciation feedback was not effective since Bob was expecting something else.

If both Billy and Bob had discussed beforehand what kind of feedback was desired from you, they both would have been in a better situation. If Billy had asked for appreciation, he wouldn’t have been stressed all the way until the meeting. If Bob had asked for coaching or evaluation, you could have had time to evaluate where he currently is and how he could improve.

Atomic Thinking

Appreciation, coaching, and evaluation are all necessary for growth.

  • Appreciation helps us feel valued; it motivates us to keep working hard. I receive appreciation from my manager when we discuss my place on the team.
  • Coaching analyzes what we need to work on and where we need to improve. I receive coaching when my mentor teaches me how to fix bugs and learn from my mistakes.
  • Evaluation gives us perspective on where we are. I receive evaluation when our clients tell our team what they like and dislike about our work.

    Giving quality feedback is an essential part of who we are at Atomic Object as a software consultancy. Hopefully, you’ll take into consideration how you approach giving and receiving feedback from here on out, and remember to say, “Thanks for the feedback.”

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