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Dealing with feedback

Every company today understands the importance of having a good feedback culture where colleagues who work together can share positive as well as constructive feedback with each other at regular intervals to help each other get better.

At Booking, though we encourage everyone to engage in providing feedback in a continuous manner, this activity peaks at the end of every quarter when colleagues request as well as provide feedback to others to facilitate quarterly reviews.

The end of the quarter acts as a good checkpoint for consolidating some of the feedback we receive and to identify items that can be actioned on over the next few weeks or months (or immediately).

As I read through all the feedback that I've received from my colleagues, I can strip down each feedback point I've received, irrespective of whether it is positive or constructive in nature, into two key drivers.

The first driver for that feedback point coming up is the actual action, interaction and perception that occurred among the people concerned (myself and the person providing the feedback in this case). This is the more superficial layer and the one that is easily noticed and where nearly all the feedback comes from. I'm guilty as well at times of allowing this to be the only driver of the feedback I share with my colleagues.

The second driver for that feedback point is the underlying context in which we operate. All of us show behaviours that are not consistent when spanning across multiple months or years. We behave differently under different contexts. And the context doesn't always feature in the feedback that we share with each other as it is easy to be neglected into the background.

For instance, someone shared with me that I'm very pleasant to work with and easy to collaborate with on ideas. It is quite likely because we are operating in a context of shared vision and shared goals or targets and less about something inherent in me that was unaffected by context. If there was a difference in the context of vision or goals, then the feedback could just as easily have been that I'm not very pleasant to work with and not easy to collaborate with on ideas.

When we are deciding what action to take on the feedback we receive, we need to isolate the effect of both the drivers in order to understand which of those made a bigger impact. Quite often, the action that we need to take can be in changing or improving the context rather than changing or improving our own approach or behaviour.

The next time you're providing feedback to a colleague, or when you're receiving some, try to focus on both the drivers to make the whole exercise more effective.

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