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Now you're asking for it! A Culture of Continuous Feedback

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Now you're asking for it! A Culture of Continuous Feedback

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Agile has feedback loops on the products we build, and on the process we use to do it, but people feedback is really hard! Studies have shown that people have a negative physiological reaction to just the thought of having to give or receive feedback. But are we conditioned to be terrible at feedback from our experiences in traditional work environments, with all of their power dynamics and political undercurrents? In this talk, we will explore the science behind giving and receiving feedback, and how you can create a culture where everyone actually asks for feedback, continually, and celebrates it as a cultural norm. Even the best agilists struggle working with teams on safety, trust, and feedback. This is a crucial leadership skill, and leaders at all levels should be well versed in this topic.
Learning Outcomes:
Interpret the science behind giving and receiving feedback
Compare various elements of effective feedback
Discuss models of kind, human-centered feedback that you can use in your teams

Agile has feedback loops on the products we build, and on the process we use to do it, but people feedback is really hard! Studies have shown that people have a negative physiological reaction to just the thought of having to give or receive feedback. But are we conditioned to be terrible at feedback from our experiences in traditional work environments, with all of their power dynamics and political undercurrents? In this talk, we will explore the science behind giving and receiving feedback, and how you can create a culture where everyone actually asks for feedback, continually, and celebrates it as a cultural norm. Even the best agilists struggle working with teams on safety, trust, and feedback. This is a crucial leadership skill, and leaders at all levels should be well versed in this topic.
Learning Outcomes:
Interpret the science behind giving and receiving feedback
Compare various elements of effective feedback
Discuss models of kind, human-centered feedback that you can use in your teams

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Now you're asking for it! A Culture of Continuous Feedback

  1. 1. @jjschreuder • jason.schreuder@gmail.com • www.iterationsofjason.com Now You’re Asking for it! A Culture of Continuous Feedback
  2. 2. I’ve got some FEEDBACK For you
  3. 3. Agile Coach Jason Schreuder ▷ 10+ years of Agile, coaching, training and leading agile teams in the military and technology industries ▷ experience leading an Agile PMO and an Agile adoption in a global technology company developing manufactured devices, currently working on non-software applications for Agile in a large, private financial technology firm ▷ Graduate degrees in business and higher education, alphabet soup of certifications ▷ from Apex, North Carolina Helping people, teams, and organizations pursue the ability to engage and affect their environment so that they can adapt to a complex and ever changing world.
  4. 4. Menti Poll! Please go to menti.com on your device. Enter code: 44 61 95 Ask me Anything!
  5. 5. You have a problem. A Culture of Niceness
  6. 6. “Research is suggesting that by switching from giving feedback to asking for it, organizations can tilt their culture toward continuous improvement; smarter decision making; and stronger, more resilient teams that can adapt as needed. Neuroleadership Institute
  7. 7. The Way Forward ▷ Hello Brain ▷ Three Types of Feedback ▷ Three Crucial Elements ▷ Learn and Practice: Giving, Receiving, Asking for Feedback ▷ How to get started in your organization
  8. 8. Hello, Brain! ▷ Your brain rules you, other people’s brains rule them. ▷ Your brain runs on subroutines ▷ Your brain seeks patterns “Social threats are experienced like physical threats.” -- Neuroleadership Institute
  9. 9. Three Types of Feedback ▷ Appreciation - Building relationships, encouraging (“thank you” and “you matter.” ) ▷ Coaching - Learning, grow, change, improve (can be peer, but usually only with a high degree of trust, often comes from a manager. Peers must start a conversation) ▷ Evaluation - Comparison against standard, align expectations (much more difficult to deliver)
  10. 10. Three Crucial Elements ▷ Intent -- Assume positive intent, and come with positive intent. ▷ Trust -- Trust that your team members want the best for you and the for the team. ▷ Process -- Use the process we are going to learn today to engage and start a conversation.
  11. 11. You have blindspots
  12. 12. Intent A checklist to prepare yourself: ❏ What’s my intent in giving this feedback? ❏ What’s is the level of trust this person feels toward me? ❏ Are the timing and setting optimal and creating a good environment? ❏ Have I identified specifics and impact and am I genuinely curious to hear their perspective?
  13. 13. Trust Withdrawal ● Break promises ● Be unkind ● Be disloyal ● Don’t listen ● Be arrogant Adapted from Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) and John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (1999) The Emotional Bank Account Deposit ● Keep promises ● Be Kind ● Be Loyal ● Listen ● Apologize
  14. 14. Process PURPOSE State the purpose for giving feedback and check for readiness to receive it. BEHAVIOR Describe the specific behavior involved. IMPACT Share the impact that you see the behavior having. PERSPECTIVE Ask questions and engage in dialogue to explore the other person’s perspective. ACTION Thank them for listening, partner to create next steps, offer support to commit to action
  15. 15. What are some things to keep in mind? ▷ Concentrate on the behavior, not the person ▷ Balance (appreciations and coaching, greats & gifts) ▷ Own it (“I” or “Me”) ▷ Timeliness ▷ Interactivity (Start a conversation, don’t be a seagull) Be: ▷ Specific - “clear is kind, unclear is unkind” ▷ Open - curiosity is the antidote for judgement ▷ Aware - of your brain and bias ▷ Real - truthful ▷ Responsive - be ready to share how to show up differently
  16. 16. IDENTITYTRUTH RELATIONSHIP Recognize Common Triggers Listen and Watch for: ● Data they have that I don’t ● Interpretations that are different than mine ● Impacts I am having that I may not be aware of. “That is wrong.” “That isn’t helpful.” “That isn’t me.” Ask: Ask: Ask: “Can you give me an example?” “What did that mean to you?” “How did that impact you? “Can you help me understand your feedback first? And then can we talk about how, when, and why you’re offering it?” “What am I contributing t this problem between us? “Can you help me see this fits into the bigger picture?” “What could I change that would matter most? “What could I do that would help me improve?” Listen and Watch for: Listen and Watch for: “After all I’ve done for you?!” “Who are you to say?” “You’re the problem, not me.” “I failed.” “I mess up everything.” “I’m not a bad person, Am I” ● A second topic about our relationship being brought up ● What each of us are contributing, and what’s my contribution ● How strongly I tend to react to feedback ● What is the “actual size” of this feedback ● How I can focus on growth rather than failure DON’T Resist React Reject DO Receive Reflect Respond All feedback is useful. Remember, it is how we survive!
  17. 17. Asking for Feedback ▷ Invite feedback often, especially from those you trust. ▷ Ask for time to reflect. “Let me think about this. I’m willing to hear more criticism but not all at one time.” ▷ Take credit for your mistakes and grow Start with: ▷ “what’s one thing you see me doing or not doing that is getting in my way?” ▷ If you had to make two suggestions for improving my work, what would they be? ▷ How could I handle my projects more effectively? ▷ What could I do to make your job easier? ▷ How could I do a better job of following through on commitments? ▷ If you were in my position, what would you do to show people more appreciation? ▷ When do I need to involve other people in my decisions? ▷ How could I do a better job of prioritizing my activities?
  18. 18. Where to Go From here ▷ Start asking for feedback! Broadly, Explicitly, Often ▷ Strive to help people excel, not just bring awareness to flaws ▷ Be aware of the three triggers ▷ Model the change you want to see in your organization ▷ Evolve working agreements for your teams ▷ Develop a growth mindset in your team ▷ Strive for high performance with greats/gifts ratio
  19. 19. “When we have difficult feedback to give, we enter the discussion uneasily, and this pushes us to the side of fear and judgment, where we believe we know what is wrong with the other person and how we can fix him. If we are mindful, we can come to such discussions from a place of care. When we do, we can enter into beautiful moments of inquiry, where we have no easy answers but can help the colleague assess himself more truthfully. Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations
  20. 20. Menti Poll! Please go to menti.com on your device. Enter code: 44 61 95 Now I want your feedback!
  21. 21. @jjschreuder • jason.schreuder@gmail.com • www.iterationsofjason.com Thank You!

Notas do Editor

  • ACTIVITY: React, Write, and Share

  • “You have a problem in your organization. And you may not even know it. Or, maybe you do, and that is why you are here.”
    There is a culture in most orgs of being nice to people and people think nice means don’t say anything critical or constructive -- go along to get along.
    There have been lots of studies that examine your physiological and neurological responses when giving feedback. A recent one (2018), people were paired and sent into a room to give feedback to each other (there is some foreshadowing here . . )
    People giving feedback were rated as being much friendlier than those that were asked to give it. This is back to our culture of niceness. People are overly positive, and use what psychologists have come to label “brittle smiles” (can everyone try it? Give me your best brittle smile)
    If you ask for feedback, you are licensing people to be critical. They will unmask the brittle smile and really give you something useful
    Heart rates jumped as much as 50% during feedback conversations (both ways) -- similar to other high-anxiety tasks, such as public speaking
    The science here is based on a study by Tessa West, New York University psychologist and NeuroLeadership Institute senior scientist, alongside researcher Katherine Thorson, also of NYU.
    You can give feedback with kindness. Today we are going to learn about how and get some practice.
  • Moreover, if you a manager, or in a position of authority, it may be even more difficult to deliver feedback. There are a variety of reasons, chief among which is some misguided notion of “it is solely my responsibility to develop this person”

    ⅔ of Managers are uncomfortable communicating at all!.
  • The healthiest organizations have a culture of asking for feedback. Today we are going to talk about how you can start on that journey.


  • Feedback is a part of life. Organism and organization come from the same root word in latin -- both rely on feedback to stay alive and well. Organizations use feedback (sales targets, KPIs, OKRs, quarterly earnings statements) all the time. Organisms use feedback to find food and thrive.

    Humans are not quite so good at it. Conversational feedback is just as important, and we take it for granted.
  • Feedback is the most important part of an agile approach, IMHO. We get feedback on people, process, product every iteration, or every increment.

    Scrum is empirical process control, and you use feedback to adjust to a more appropriate course
  • There are tons of ideas on how to give feedback out there. Just google it. You will find tons of suggestions, models, and approaches from management gurus everywhere.

    Today we are going to focus more on the neuroscience behind feedback, or more specifically how you react in a feedback situation. Then we will explore and practice strategies to not only give, but to receive and ultimately, ask for feedback (make sure this jives with the abstract)

  • The most common is the sandwich method, where you slip in a critique between two affirmations. The problem with this is that as soon as you deliver the critique, the receiver has disregarded everything you said before and after. The idea of balancing positives to negative feedback is sound, but not all in the same breath.

    We can change the word, but eventually somebody will catch on. The idea is to change the conversation, and make the word less painful. A/G/R feedback, be comfortable doing it.
  • That was bit of a long-tailed lead in to the meat of what I wanted to share. But I wanted to set the scene and share why I think feedbak is so important.
  • Your brain rules you, other people’s brains rule them
    Your brain runs on sub-routines (find a good way to explain this)
    Your brain seeks patterns, and has a reward system for figuring things out. Endorpins are released to re-energize you (this is why crossing off TO DO lists and checking email can feel so good). People find patterns, learn the path of least resistance, and feel good about it.

    Paul MacLean introduced the concept of a triune brain in the 1960s. This model of brain structure and function is based on three specific regions of the human brain:

    1) basal ganglia (reptilian or primal brain, “fight or flight”)
    2) the limbic system (mammalian or emotional brain)
    3) the neocortex (human or rational brain)

    MacLean suggested that these structures developed in this order through evolution. However, while the triune brain model provides us with a neat way of looking at the relationship between structure and function in the human brain, evidence has shown various regions are involved in the three groups of activities outlined above.

    Do two hands brain exercise
  • Today we are going to prepare for and role play an important piece of feedback for you and your life.

    Think about what type of feedback you intend to deliver. It is likely coaching feedback. This is tricky, and you must start with a desire to bring awareness and offer help. Then try to start a conversation with that person. I will show you how.

  • Remember, the goal is not to try to bring change (we’ll talk more about how you can provide support for excellence later) or even necessarily to help, but to bring awareness. The conversation will flesh out where we go from there.

    ACTIVITY (C2): Right and Wrong Reasons
    FLCO, flipchart with two columns. Right reasons to give feedback, wrong reasons to give feedback
  • Stephen covey described the emotional bank account in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989. Much research has been done since then.

    Dr. John Gottman, in his research of thousands of couples over 30 years (seven principles of making marriage work), showed that 5-1 ratio was needed for healthy relationships, making deposits in the emotional bank account. Other research shows high performing teams are as high as 6-1.

    ASK: How would you make a withdrawal?
    How would you make a deposit?

    In every interaction you are either building trust, eroding trust, or destroying trust.

    You have the potential to influence those who trust you. But without trust, influence is next to impossible.
  • Let’s practice! Role play with a partner at your table and deliver the constructive feedback. Explain the situation, describe your approach


  • Recognize that people are doing their best. They are behaving in the best way they know how based on their environment. Assume positive intent.
    Always leave the decision for advice up to the coachee, just like you would leave the decision for feedback in the first place up to them. Provide:
    Missing information
    Relevant resource or decision making tool
    Relevant examples from your experience

  • When feedback is not requested, what happens?
    You feel like you told someone a bunch of stuff they care about, but they are probably just shutting down
    Even if they retain the information, they may not agree with it. Social threats create cognitive dissonance, and people are inclined to flee (limbic brain). People have been shown to reject information as patently untrue when they are in a threat state. If they can convince themselves the critique is false “my boss has no idea what he is talking about” -- they can avoid a bruised ego
    So productive feedback conversations must begin with the goal of minimizing the threat response
    AND we should all get in the habit of asking for feedback more regularly.

    Receive -- hear it, with an open mind
    Listen to the feedback given.
    Be aware of your responses
    Be open.
    Understand the message.
    Reflect -- zoom in: how am i feeling? What is the story? What is the feedback? the individual takes the time they need to reflect on what they heard and respond accordingly. Reflect and decide what to do.
    Respond – not necessarily now. You can just say “thank you” and respond laster. Follow up

    Look for similar feedback from multiple sources. Even if it doesn’t make sense, there may be something there. This can help you identify the real heart of the issue. Find somebody you trust to help you navigate it.


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