A Mentor's Perspective: Providing Positive Feedback

A Mentor's Perspective: Providing Positive Feedback

How do you foster mentorship within a team?

The traditional way of helping someone improve in their work is to provide constructive feedback. i.e., you observe something, you tell the person “here is what I have observed, and I think you could improve by doing this…”.

At PALO IT, we meet regularly to share and learn from each other. In our last team gathering, I suggested we try the Feedforward exercise inspired by Avraham Kluger, Organisational Consultant, and Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach. It is a technique to give and frame suggestions in a much more powerful and positive way than standard feedback.

Let’s get started!

1/ Introduce the exercise by saying something like: “We are going to do a Feedforward exercise where each of us is going to receive suggestions from the others. Each suggestion should be treated as a gift. A gift is something you receive, you don’t always like it but you always say thank you.” This way of introducing the exercise is to reinforce an attitude that should always prevail: respect each others’ ideas, don’t be judgmental and express yourself.

2/ Ask your team members to each think of one thing they want to improve. It can be anything.

3/ Form pairs. In each pair, team member A says “I want to improve…”. Team member B says “Then you could try to…”.

mentorship, illustration, agile project management

4/ Reverse roles. Team member B says “I want to improve…”. Team member A says “Then you could try to…”.

mentorship, illustration, agile project management

5/ Split and form new pairs. Continue until everyone has talked to everyone.

At the end, I asked each team member to give me one word to express what they felt and the results were amazing: “Energised”, “Positive”, “Great”, “Inspired”. And they asked to do it again the next time we meet!

The benefits

  • The “no judgement” style makes people feel comfortable on both sides, receiving and providing suggestions.
  • Because the person receiving advice is choosing the topic, it is perceived in a much more positive way than typical feedback.
  • We don’t focus on saying what is not done well up to now, but what you can start doing from this moment forward. Again reinforcing positive communication methods.
  • Team members get advice from different people with different backgrounds and skills.
  • Team members get to give advice even though they may be junior. It is a way to learn to be self-introspective regardless of experience, as well as gain confidence in expressing ideas.
  • Everyone participates, but with an one-to-one approach. This puts less pressure on people who are shy.
  • I recommend you, as a Leader, to also participate. It makes everyone feel on the same level. You will lead by example and of course you end up learning new things as well.

Conclusion

For all the reasons above, Feedforward is a much more positive exercise than giving feedback in a traditional manner. You can also use it for one-to-one sessions with your team members, however I think the group version is even more powerful. If you want to learn more about this Feedforward interpersonal improvement activity designed for team and organisations, I invite you to watch the following video:

And you? Have you ever tried it yourself? I would love to hear about your experience!

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