Feedback’s a gift!

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Farran Street

Giving feedback is a key leadership skill, and creating an environment where feedback is expected and accepted should be the goal of every service.

Most people avoid giving feedback because they are worried about destroying the relationships. Why does feedback hurt so much?

At the heart of receiving feedback is a clash between two key human desires:

  1. The need to learn and grow
  2. The need to feel accepted and respected for who we are.

We’re wired to enjoy learning and growing, it’s a big part of what brings satisfaction and accomplishment to life. I can point to many times that I’ve learned and grown from feedback in my past.

But human beings also need to feel accepted, respected, and safe just the way we are now. And that’s why feedback is such a conundrum. It can be enormously threatening because the very fact that someone is giving us negative feedback suggests that the way we are now is not quite right.

But there is a better way!

You can create an environment where feedback is expected and accepted—and even in those instances where direct feedback is given, Educators can leave the interaction feeling reflective and inspired.

Feedback can be categorised into three main types:

  1. Appreciation

Appreciation feedback is fundamentally about relationships, connections and character strengths. Appreciation motivates and inspires us, it gives us a bounce in our step.

  1. Coaching

Coaching feedback is aimed at trying to help Educators learn, grow or change.

  1. Evaluation

Evaluation feedback is designed to compare or measure performance against expectations or instructions.

One trait underpins all three types of feedback and that is a culture of constant inquiry. A culture of constant inquiry starts with the ability to ask great questions. Questions are also a powerful tool for promoting thinking and learning. Asking great questions is at the heart of effective communication and the secret to great leadership.

By asking the right questions you can gather better information and learn more; you can build stronger relationships, manage people more effectively and ultimately deliver better feedback. Questions unlock and open doors that otherwise remain closed, and allow us to see things from different perspectives.

It’s important to remove the negative stigma attached to the process of asking questions. The Nominated Supervisor says to the Educator, “Why didn’t you put the bikes out today?” The Educator becomes defensive, “Have I done something wrong?” The Educator fires back.

All too often questions signal a reprimand. The first step in giving great feedback is to establish that questions are simply an attempt to gain more information, to get better insight, to understand perspectives. Great leaders can ask questions which denote a positive sense of genuine inquiry.

Feedback based on assumption is offensive. Begin your feedback journey by asking great questions:

What was your vision for setting up the yard today?

If you could have any resources you wanted, what experience would you design for the children?

What was your inspiration for that experience?

If you could have your time again how would you handle that situation?

If you were a child, what would it look like?

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

One final thought—we only accept feedback from people we trust. Start by asking great questions and building trust.

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About the author:
Adrian Pattra is the Education Director of Farran Street Education. In this role, he manages the day-to-day operational and educational outcomes. Adrian has been involved in adult education for the past 15 years, he holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master in Educational Psychology. Adrian has worked with a range of Children Service’s organisations, providing them with the tools to improve their competency and learning frameworks, while creating a culture of continuous learning.  For the past 20 years, Adrian together with his family has a small long day care service on Sydney’s lower north shore.