Don’t Kill Them Softly: Fostering a Culture of Fearless Feedback

Like opinions, everyone has feedback. And like opinions, harmful or useless feedback can kill your team softly by demoralisation.

Implementation is important when launching products and the same is true for feedback. Culture can shift at the drop of a hat if feedback is utilised to critique and destroy, rather than to observe and build.

This talk is for new and seasoned managers alike, as well as individual contributors. Using design anthropology methodologies, Amélie Lamont will share a framework you can use to foster a fearless feedback culture that focuses on creating value, rather than pointing out flaws.

You’ll identify how to separate feedback from critique, as well as how to respond to positive feedback or critique. You’ll also explore best practices she’s learned from managing teams to interacting with team members, like resolving conflict, letting go of ego, creating a baseline of respect, assuming positive intent, and being proactive.

Today Amélie is talking about feedback.

Act I: What is feedback?

We’re not taught how to give or receive feedback.

Our emotions kick in. We tend to have a really binary approach to feedback – it’s either good or bad. We don’t have a range, we don’t see feedback as a spectrum. We are not emotionally equipped to receive feedback.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill; and needs to be exercised like a muscle to make it stronger.

Act II: qualities of good feedback

A definition: feedback is reactions to a person’s performance of a task which is used as a basis for improvement.

Effective feedback is constructive. It can help you. It doesn’t break you down, it exists to point out things that you are doing that could be better. The aim is to help you become a better person.

Effective feedback is consistent. Why do some companies wait an entire year to give people feedback? Don’t wait so long. Have something weekly or monthly at least!

Effective feedback is timely. It can’t wait until later, it has to be done in context, when it’s relevant, when people can remember it!

Effective feedback is specific. “That wasn’t good” is too vague.

Effective feedback is cooperative. It needs to be a two-way conversation, looking for a resolution.

Act III: giving feedback

Consider:

  • What is your intention? Feedback-for-vengeance is no good.
  • Can you ask for permission? Leading with “can I give you some feedback” opens a conversation. It gives people a chance to say no, as well.
  • Are you looking at the person, or their behaviours?
  • Are you being direct and specific?
  • How are you delivering feedback?
  • Don’t make assumptions! There may be some really good reasons for the behaviour you’re seeing. Ask!
  • Are you providing positive and corrective feedback? (‘corrective’ is better than ‘negative’… you want to correct a behaviour)
  • Is the feedback factual or interpretive? (someone turning up late: the time is factual, “you don’t care about the team” is interpretation)
  • How will this feedback affect the organisation?
  • How will this feedback help the person grow?

For managers:

  • Think of power structures
  • People can’t grow without feedback
  • Be fair, create transparent structure

(improv on stage)

Act IV: receiving feedback

  • Receiving feedback doesn’t have to be scary
  • Be open to the feedback you receive
  • Try your best to listen and do nothing
  • Think of ways to dig deeper and find answers – if you get vague feedback, ask questions, ask for a specific example, understand what’s motivating the feedback.
  • Decide if you want to take the feedback or not. You don’t actually have to take the feedback. Not all feedback is good.
  • Managers – invite feedback from your direct reports.

Act V: crafting a culture of feedback

  • Feedback culture is necessary for feedback. If the environment doesn’t allow it, then it won’t happen.
  • Create boundaries and guidelines
  • Focus on building relationships (bonus tip: do not give feedback to anyone you do not have a good relationship with! particularly your own boss)
  • Create elements of safety and trust
  • Be open to failure, mistakes and change
  • Do your best to assume positive intent
  • Allow people to build each other up, regardless of power structures
  • Don’t feed people negativity sandwiches (good feedback, bad feedback, good feedback)

(more improv, which I will not attempt to describe – go watch the video ;))

Act VI: remaining open

(a poem to finish, again – video! :))

(upbeat music) – All right, so today I’m going to be talking with you about feedback, how to give feedback, how to receive feedback, and how to build a culture of feedback within your companies. Now we only have 50 minutes so, I’m not gonna teach you everything about feedback.

I’ll do my best.

I think the best way to think about this is to take what you need, leave the rest, absorb as much as you can, but don’t try to take all of it, ’cause you probably won’t. The other thing I want to say is that in terms of this talk I think it’s really important for all of us to be really open when considering feedback. So in terms of being open, I do have a question for the audience and that is, who here has ever done improv? Looks like not that many people.

I feel like more people have been doing improv in America, but, not here, wow.

All right, okay.

That’s fine, that’s fine.

All right so, those of you who have done improv, I’m going to be picking on one or two of y’all to come up on stage and, don’t, did y’all make a noise? (laughs) You don’t get to control my talk! What the hell? No, okay listen, I’m gonna pick one or two y’all and you’re gonna come on stage with me, and we’re going to role play giving and receiving feedback. So let’s start with act one.

What is feedback? I did a workshop on this yesterday and when I asked this question, a lot of people were like, well, it’s how you talk to one another, it’s how you give information about someone’s behaviour or performance, there were a few other answers as well. And I agree with that, but I think when we think about feedback it’s an aggregation of information that you’re observing and then taking that observation and feeding it back to the person who needs to receive it. I just realised I have a clicker, yes! One of the biggest things that is really important to think about when it comes to feedback is that we’re not taught how to give it, and we’re also not taught how to receive it.

Oftentimes when it comes to feedback our emotions get in the way.

Someone could come up to you and say, well, you know, I think that design that you worked on yesterday, it sucked.

And your reaction would be like, wow, I hate you. I really, like if I could, like if I could not go to jail, I would stab you right now.

(audience laughing) Don’t do that, stabbing people is not good. You don’t wanna go to jail.

When we think about feedback it tends to be a binary. It’s either positive or negative, it’s either good or bad. And if there’s anything that you take away from this talk today, I want you to take away that feedback is not a binary.

Feedback is on a spectrum.

And when it comes to your reaction in terms of the feedback that you receive, only you can control that reaction. And I’m going to be giving you tools today to figure out how you can kind of navigate how you react to the feedback you receive and also control the emotions that you have when you are giving feedback as well.

That brings us to we’re not emotionally equipped to handle feedback.

If you’re gonna stab someone because they gave you feedback you didn’t like, you’re clearly not emotionally equipped.

And giving and receiving feedback is a skill. I cannot stress this enough.

You’re not gonna like wake up one morning and be feedback master.

It’s just not gonna happen.

I’ve been working on giving feedback for quite some time and I’m still not good at it.

I worked at Apple, and when I was at Apple we had this idea of, I guess you can say fearless feedback is what it was called.

And essentially what this fearless feedback was was that if you had an issue with a co-worker or even if you wanted to call them out for something positive, we set up an environment where you could literally just go up to that person and say hey, I think you did a great job or hey, let’s have a conversation about something that happened earlier today.

So that brings me to act two.

We talked about, I asked you what feedback is, I gave you some examples, but I have an actual definition and I’m gonna read it to you even though it’s already here. Feedback is information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

So when I think about that, I try to think about how the feedback that I’m supposed to give to someone, how it can better them, how it can affect them, and why I’m giving that feedback as well.

The best way to think about this, if we’re not thinking about feedback as a binary, and if we’re thinking about it on a spectrum, I think it’s easy to say that there are different types of feedback.

So if there isn’t good or bad feedback, there is feedback that can help you and then there’s feedback that can harm you. And when I think about feedback that can help you, I like to call that effective feedback.

One point of effective feedback is that effective feedback is constructive.

It doesn’t break you down, it exists specifically to point out things that you might be doing that are either good or could be better.

That aim to build you up and help you to become a better person.

Effective feedback is consistent.

You know how like at a lot of your companies you have those end of the year reviews and they come at the end of the year? Once a year.

It’s like why? Why are you asking for my feedback about my organisation at the end of the year? If you want to improve as a company, shouldn’t you be asking for my feedback consistently and constantly? But we often don’t do that.

Some companies are like oh we’re gonna take it to the next level.

We’re gonna ask for feedback every quarter. And it’s like no mother-Fers, you need to ask for more feedback, not ever quarter! I just told you consistency.

God dammit! Okay, so when thinking about that consistency and trying to implement feedback within your company, I would say if you’re with a manager, maybe having those feedback sessions in your one to ones. And maybe your one to ones are once a week, or maybe for the larger organisation that feedback session happens every month.

Effective feedback is timely.

This is my favourite.

Ever had a situation where, I dunno, I’m gonna make something up.

Maybe you were walking in the hallway and you accidentally spilled someone’s coffee.

Let’s say you spilled Joe’s coffee.

And then nine months later, enough time for a baby gestate, Joe comes to you and says, or comes to me and says, Amelie, I’m really mad at you.

And I’ll be like, wow, Joe, why? Tell me more about that.

And Joe will be like, well, you know, I just remember on March 13th, on 2017, you bumped into me and you spilled my coffee and you did not say sorry. So my thought is, wow Joe, first of all I’m sorry I spilled your coffee but why the hell are you telling me this nine months after the fact? That is not effective feedback.

When you give feedback to someone it has to be timely. It has to be in the moment that the event happened that you are either in alignment with, or that you are not in alignment with.

Effective feedback is specific.

I also really love this because sometimes when you receive feedback from people, and sometimes even when you give feedback to people you’ll say things like that wasn’t very good or that was a good job. And it’s like okay, but what are you, what are you talking about? What wasn’t very good or what did I do a good job at? So you need to get more specific to give effective feedback. Effective feedback is cooperative.

This is also a really good one.

Oftentimes when we give feedback we have this idea that we’re in a room, we’ve done something really bad and someone is just talking at us.

That is not what feedback is about.

Feedback is a two way conversation.

It’s two people having a conversation and trying to get to a resolution.

There’s something, there’s an end goal that you’re trying to meet.

Which brings me to act three, giving feedback. So we already talked about we’re all bad at giving feedback and there are some specific tips to consider when you are giving feedback.

Tip number one is what is your intention? When you’re giving feedback it’s very easy to fall into this area of giving feedback for vengeance. So for example let’s take Joe again.

So I spilled Joe’s coffee, didn’t say sorry. And let’s say Joe has written a report and we’re working on it together and I put a typo in that report.

Just a small typo, I misspelt a word.

And Joe decides to give me feedback and he blows up on me. And he’s like, you made a typo in this presentation! And I’ll be like wow, like what is your intention for giving this feedback? Are you still mad that I spilled that coffee and didn’t say sorry? I already said sorry.

So I don’t know why you’re giving me this feedback. So oftentimes and not, when you’re thinking about the feedback that you want to give to someone, make sure that it’s not coming from a malicious place. And you’re not trying to get revenge or take one over on them.

Can you ask for permission? This is something that a lot of us do not do when we give feedback.

Oftentimes than not, we’re kind of just like okay, I’m gonna give this person feedback, hopefully it’s going to resolve the situation, whatever it is that I have with them.

But we never ask them if we can give them feedback. So for example in that same situation with Joe, if Joe came up to me and said, hey Amelie, can I give you some feedback? That opens the door for me to say yes or no. And I’m well within my right to say no if I don’t want to receive that feedback.

Are you looking at the person or their behaviours? This is really important.

I think it’s really easy to mix up this idea of the actions that someone has taken versus the person that they are.

It’s very easy to look at someone and say well you’ve been coming in late consistently so therefore you’re a bad person.

That’s not correct.

The behaviour is not a good behaviour that is alignment with the company but that doesn’t mean that the person is bad.

Are you being direct and are you being specific? Are you beating around the bush when you’re talking with them about feedback? If this person is late every day, when you address them about this feedback are you saying, hey, well, you know, I noticed that sometimes you’re not in the office at 10 um, and I just think that maybe you shouldn’t do that. That’s not helpful feedback for anybody.

You have to be direct and you have to be specific. I noticed that you haven’t been coming in on time to work. Can you tell me more about that, what’s going on? And how are you delivering the feedback? So let’s keep that example of that person being late. Are you going up to them and being, you jerk, why the F aren’t you coming in early on time? What’s wrong with you? That’s, if anybody received that feedback they’d probably be like why are you, why are you talking to me that way? I don’t want to be disrespected.

So the delivery of the feedback is also incredibly important.

And also don’t make assumptions.

For that person who was late, there are a variety of reasons as to why they might be late, right? You can say that maybe they’re being a bad co-worker, or they’re letting down their team, but maybe there are things outside of work that’s going on. Maybe they have family issues.

Maybe there are life issues going on that you’re just not aware of, so don’t make assumptions. And are you providing both positive and corrective feedback? So, this is really important, I prefer to use the phrase corrective rather than negative.

Oftentimes and not when we give quote unquote negative feedback it’s because we’re observing a behaviour that we want someone to change.

So instead of negative feedback, it is corrective feedback because you want them to change it.

Another phrase you can use is directing feedback. You want to direct them into a different direction than they are going now.

When you’re giving feedback to someone, are you providing both positive and corrective feedback? Are you letting them know what they’re doing well as well as what they can be doing better? Okay, I already said that, I don’t know why that’s in there. My bad.

Typo, ooo, that’s there again, ooo my bad.

All right, my bad.

Okay, is the feedback factual or is it interpretive? I love this because oftentimes than not it’s really easy to have your own perspective about someone and kind of turn that into feedback. So for example you can say Joe, I noticed that you haven’t been coming in at 10 p.m. or 10 a.m. 10 p.m. oh my god.

10 a.m. every morning which is when standup starts. That’s factual, you’re not coming in at 10 a.m.. Everyone can observe that.

What is interpretive would be hey Joe, I noticed that you just don’t care about the team and you’re just dropping the ball.

Well, that’s, I mean, that could be true, but you don’t know that.

You’re interpreting what you’re seeing based on this person being late, so that’s not fair. And how will this feedback impact the organisation? Oftentimes than not when we give feedback we’re looking at it from a very small picture point of view, we’re not thinking about it from the entire level of the organisation.

So when you give this feedback, how is going to affect the organisation? And how is going to affect this individual and how they affect the organisation? So by giving Joe, or whoever this person is, this feedback, this person who’s coming in late consistently, how is it going to help them improve their performance and how is that performance going to tie back into the organisation as a whole? And of course, how will this feedback help this person grow? Which is self-explanatory.

Okay, and then specifically for managers.

Think of power structures.

Oftentimes than not when we’re giving feedback as managers all the tips that I’ve mentioned are really important, but you especially have to consider how you come off as a manager.

A manager in comparison to a direct report has significantly more power than that direct report.

So depending on how you give someone feedback who is a direct report, you can either make or break their career.

And that’s something that’s really important to keep in mind.

And you’re people can’t grow without your feedback as a manager.

I see a lot of managers who are afraid to give tough feedback to their direct reports and I find that to be quite nonsensical because there’s no way for them to grow if they don’t know what they could be doing better. Be fair and create transparent structure.

There are a lot of managers who oftentimes they have say, let’s say they have five direct reports and they have one direct report and they give them a specific type of feedback.

And then they have another direct report and they give them similar feedback, but it’s not similar to what they gave to the first direct report.

So lemme give you an example.

Say, Joe is coming in late every single day and missing stand up.

Then with also have Anna who’s coming in late every day and also missing standup.

The manager addresses Joe about missing standup and says you have to be on time at 10 a.m. every day. You cannot miss standup and does not give that feedback to Anna, that is a break in structure.

When you’re giving feedback, specifically as a manager you have to create check points that make it very clear about how you give feedback.

You have to be transparent about that.

And you have to make sure that it’s the same for everyone across the board.

So, example time.

This is where improv skills come into play. So we’ve talked about this.

I’ve already given you a little bit of advice about this. You’re a manager and you notice that one of your direct reports has been coming in late every day and missing standup.

Who is going to come onto this stage and improv with me? Yes.

I like you, thank you.

You’re brave.

My first victim.

(audience laughing) (Amelie laughing) Great.

Does this, can we get this mic working? Is that possible? Maybe I’ll give you this mic.

Yeah, okay, it’s working, cool.

All right.

So, what’s your name? – Uh Carl. – Kyle?

– Carl. – Carl, okay.

My bad Carl, okay.

All right so you’re going to be the manager and you’re going to give me feedback.

So you can just go ahead, use that prompt and talk to me as if I’m, I’m gonna like really get into it.

I’m gonna like method act and shit.

(audience laughing) – Can I method act as well? (audience laughing) – Yes! – Hi.

Uh, do you know what the time is? – I don’t know Carl, you tell me what time it is. (audience laughing) – It is an hour past when you should have been here. It’s not good enough.

– I was eating breakfast.

– Can you tell me about it? (audience laughing) – I was, the train was late. Oh thank you.

The train was late.

I had a baby.

– This morning? (audience laughing) Congratulations.

– Thank you, thank you! I just want you to know that if you just believe anything impossible is life.

Everything in life is possible, that’s why I had a baby this morning.

– Okay, I believe.

– Thank you.

Okay.

– So I’ll see you here tomorrow half an hour earlier then? – Okay, so that was someone who was really shitty at receiving feedback.

So let’s restart.

– Hi. – Hi Carl.

(audience laughing) – Uh, do you know what the time is? – Um, yeah, it’s about an hour after work has started. – Oh, can you tell me why you’re here a little bit later? – Yeah, there are some things that are going on in my life right now that I’ve been struggling with and I’m fully aware that, I know that what I’ve been doing affects the team and I’m really sorry about it. – Is there anything the team can do to help? – That’s a really great question.

I’ll have to think about it.

I think for me I’m feeling a little bit emotional right now so what I would like to do is to just take some time to absorb everything and then, could I schedule a meeting with you later, like at a later time? – That would be super.

– Great. Wonderful.

Thank you.

Give him a hand.

(audience applauding) So, I love doing things like that because it’s interesting to see how people give feedback.

Carl did a really great job at asking questions and kind of pulling out from me why it is I’m coming in late and what it is that is causing me to be late. He even offered support which was really great as a manager to do.

So act four.

Receiving feedback.

Receiving feedback doesn’t have to be scary. So if you noticed when we did the second round of me receiving that feedback I was like oh gosh, I’m so fucking scared, I’m late.

I’m gonna get yelled at.

But feedback doesn’t have to be scary.

It doesn’t have to be scary to receive it nor does it have to be scary to give it as well. The biggest tip that I would give for this is don’t be afraid of feedback, of receiving it.

And be open to the feedback that you receive. So, one of the things that I loved about doing that exercise with Carl is that at the beginning I was pretty much an asshole in terms of the feedback that I was receiving and one of the things that’s really important is that you have to be open. It’s very very possible that when you receive feedback it’s not going to be delivered in a way that you like. He could have very well said, hey you’re late. And that’s really shitty and you need to fucking stop. (laughs) Just like wow, that’s really extreme. But he could have said that.

And there are managers who do say things like that. I’ve had that happen to me.

And so while I can’t control the other actions of people, I can control how I react to them.

And so in that case, that’s why for the second scenario I specifically said hey, emotions are running high, can I take some time to think about this and we can reschedule a meeting for later? Even if it’s feedback that you don’t wanna hear, just be open to finding some sort of truth within that feedback ’cause it could ultimately help you. Try your best to listen and do nothing.

By the way all of these tips that I’m giving specifically have to do with corrective feedback because I feel like that’s the feedback that we have the most trouble with usually.

When you’re receiving feedback you don’t want to hear oftentimes than not we tend to do this thing where we’re like sitting there receiving the feedback and we’re going through our heads and we’re trying to think of all the ways we can prove this person wrong. They’re saying that I came in late and they’re saying that I did this, and I didn’t. And I have the proof and etc., etc., etc.

And that’s really not the way to think about it because it puts you on the defensive.

So you really need to take a step back and really think about it, listen.

When someone’s giving you feedback they’re not giving you, if they have the best of intentions, of course, they’re not giving you that feedback because they’re bored or because it will cure cancer.

If only it could.

They’re giving you that feedback because they know that it’s something that they have to do that will benefit you, themselves as well as the organisation, so listen.

Make sure you acknowledge them.

Think of ways to dig deeper and find answers. So say you get really vague feedback where someone says hey, that didn’t go so well.

That’s really vague.

So you can ask questions.

You can say things like, um well, I hear you, I understand what you’re saying, I would love to know more about where this is coming from.

Do you have any specific examples that you can give to me about when this didn’t go so well and what you’re talking about? And feel free to remove yourself from the situation. You’re well within your rights to say, I don’t wanna be here right now.

I’m really upset about it and I need some space away from this to think about it.

And follow up.

Make sure that you follow up.

Make sure that you actually set that follow up meeting when you say that you’re going to do it after you’ve had some time to think about it.

And then, decide if you want to take the feedback or not. I love this.

A lot of people think that when they receive feedback they just have to take it at face value.

It’s very possible that while the feedback is valid, you’re just, you don’t wanna hear it.

You don’t have to take it.

You’re human beings of your volition.

After you’ve listened and processed the feedback you can say thanks for that, but not interested. For managers, make sure that you’re inviting feedback from your direct reports.

A lot of managers are like (laughs) I’m a manager now. You all answer to me, plebs.

Just like wow, don’t be like that.

As a manager, just because you’re a manager and you have a whole team that you’re managing, doesn’t mean that you’re above feedback.

If you want to grow as a manager, if you want to get better as a manager you have to solicit feedback from your direct reports. It’s the only way you’ll get better.

So let’s do another example.

Who is going to come up on this stage and be my next victim? Yes, thank you.

Wow, you didn’t even use the stairs, wow.

Damn, all right. (laughs) – [Chris] I’m Australian, we don’t use stairs that much. – That’s, that’s so real, that’s so real.

Thank you.

That’s right.

Okay, Chris, nice to meet you.

So what you’re going to do, let’s actually switch places. You can stand over here.

And you’re basically just going to read that sentence and I’m going to role play with you.

You’re going to be giving me feedback and I’ll be receiving it.

– Okay.

Hey Amelie, how you doing? – I’m doing well, how are you? – Just wanted to let you know that it was really great work that you did the other day.

– That’s really kind of you.

Can you be more specific about the work that you’re referring to? – Not in any way at all ’cause all I’ve got is that. (audience laughing) – Wow! You’re supposed to role play! Wow! Wow! Try again, rewind.

Oh my god.

Okay.

– Hi Amelie, how’re you going? – I’m well Chris, how are you? – I’m great.

I just wanted to let you know that you did a really great job the other day with your work.

– That’s really awesome to hear, thank you for sharing that. Um, could you be more specific about what you’re referring to? – Um, the job we delivered to the client, which I can’t name.

(audience laughing) We’re on a tight table.

– Are you gonna role play here? (audience laughing) – I’m jet lagged, my creativity’s gone.

– I’m dead, somebody else come up here. (laughs) Rewind.

One more time.

My goodness! All right.

I believe in you Chris.

I believe in you.

Do not let me down.

Okay.

Got this, all right.

– Hey Amelie how you going? – I’m well Chris how are you? – I’m great, I’m not jet lagged.

(audience laughing) Just wanted to let you know you did really great work the other day.

– I really appreciate hearing that from you. Um, could you be more specific about what you’re referring to exactly? – We were working against a really tight deadline to try to land that new client and you really put the effort in and we did it.

It was really fantastic.

We did it as a team, but your individual contribution made a big difference.

– That’s really great.

Awesome.

Yeah, I definitely worked really hard on that. Um, do you have any specific pointers about the actions that I took to work on that project? (audience laughing) In particular.

– Um, it was not so much that you did your own job, but you actually helped the rest of the team get involved as well.

And that combined with everything else we’re doing really made the difference there.

– Got it, so let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.

(audience laughing) So what you’re saying is what I did a really good job with was helping the other team members complete the work in addition to my own work? – That’s right, it was brilliant.

– Got it.

So would you say that in terms of the feedback that you’re giving me, I’m really good at being a team player under tight deadlines? – That’s absolutely correct.

– That’s really great to hear, thank you so much. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) Thank you, that was, that was, third time’s the charm. Okay.

So, act five, crafting a culture of feedback. Feedback culture is necessary for feedback. I feel like this is self explanatory, but it needs to be said.

You cannot give feedback if you do not work in a company that has a culture of feedback. Otherwise it’s like, who are you to tell me that I’m not doing as good of a job as I could be? Or who are you to give me this praise? It’s creepy get away from me.

I forgot my clicker.

It’s also important to create boundaries and guidelines. And by boundaries and guidelines I mean it’s important to set some ground rules about how you’re going to give feedback.

Maybe those ground rules are specifically about how you deliver that feedback, when you deliver that feedback.

Maybe when you’re giving corrective feedback you take that person into a room away from the rest of the team and deliver it to them in that way or maybe you’re at a company where you’re like if we’re giving feedback we’re going to give it in front of a large group and everyone’s going to see and learn from it.

Focus on building relationships.

I really like this because when you’re giving feedback if you don’t have good relationships it’s not gonna work. One of my favourite things to have people do is consider giving feedback to their managers which is something that we often are not told that we can do because of that power structure.

Do not give feedback to your manager if you do not have a good relationship with your manager.

You will get fired.

It’s just not a good idea.

Don’t do it.

Honestly, don’t give feedback to anyone you do not have a good relationship with, like for example if you got into a fight with your mom and you gave her feedback, don’t, don’t, she’s probably gonna slap you. Don’t, don’t, don’t do that, mm mm.

Create elements of safety and trust.

Now it’s kind of impossible to give feedback to someone or even receive feedback if you don’t trust them, or if you don’t feel safe.

It can feel like as I mentioned before, where we’re hoping that everyone has the best of intentions, but it can feel like someone’s trying to kind of put one over on you or screw you over.

Be open to failure, mistakes and change.

So as you’re building this culture of feedback, it’s very possible that someone will mess up when they’re giving feedback.

I mentioned that you should be very clear and concise on how you deliver it and being very deliberate in the way in which you deliver that feedback.

Feedback is a muscle, you’re not gonna get it right at the first try and so it’s very possible that you might not deliver it in a way that is savoury. It might hurt some feelings, but understand that that’s part of the process of learning as a team how to give feedback.

Do your best to assume positive intent.

So, when I worked at Apple and we had this culture of fearless feedback, one of the things that we talked about, can I just say like sometimes Apple is very cultish. And we say really cultish things so, we would walk around and when we’re, when we would see like someone like about to get into a feedback conversation, we would walk by and be like, don’t forget to assume positive intent. Which was just like, really? You’re really just gonna jump into their conversation like that? But it’s true.

Do not forget to assume positive intent.

When you’re talking with someone and when you’re engaging with someone or having a conversation with them, which is what feedback is, it’s very easy to again assume that they have negative intentions or they’re out to get you.

They’re more than likely not, so assume positive intent. And then allow people to build each other up regardless of power structures.

So if you’re a manager definitely let your direct reports know that they can give you feedback without fear of retaliation.

If you’re a co-worker make sure that you encourage people, let them know, give them that positive feedback as well as that corrective feedback.

The other thing that I wanna mention is that when you’re giving feedback, and this is something that we talked about in the workshop yesterday is never ever, ever feed someone a negativity sandwich.

You know how sometimes you’re trying to give feedback to someone and you’re like, let’s just say, let’s say Jane.

Oh my god Jane, I love your hair today.

That report that you did was shit.

Also, I love your shoes.

(audience laughing) Don’t, why would you do that? Jane is confused.

Do you like her hair? Do you hate her report? Do you love her, what? No, don’t do that.

Don’t do negativity sandwiches.

It doesn’t help, it confuses people.

So, the last thing that I wanna do, let’s see we’ve got 15 minutes.

I would love to do two more role playing sessions. Who is going, I lied, I said I was only going to do two, but we’re gonna do four.

So who is going to be my next victim? Yes, yes, all right, yes! Mmm Mmm yes.

Ooo ooo, okay yes! Oh my god I feel so popular.

Okay you’re gonna be next.

Okay and I have some prompts.

And for this scenario, you already know, that’s right. Okay.

Okay so for this scenario, actually I’ll let you pick the scenario, which one do you want to do? And you’ll give me the feedback.

– Hi, I’d like to pick number four, feedback for a co-worker.

– Okay. (audience laughing)

I’m like, that was like Jeopardy.

I’m into it, thank you! Okay what’s your name? – I’m Tom.

– Tom, all right Tom, all right so you’re going to give me this feedback.

Um, let’s say you’re going to give it to me in a negative fashion.

So, I’m going to walk into the room, method acting. What’s up? – Oh hey, um, so I’m a little bit upset, I’m sorry, I’m just, yesterday you left out the user engagement metric around behaviour economics that we’ve been working on for like six month from that presentation and the presentation was shit.

(audience laughing) So I am actually really pissed off, if that’s what you wanna know.

And just so we’re clear, you did a really bad fucking job. (audience laughing) I actually used to do improv, so there you go. (audience laughing) – Hold on.

Wow, um those are some really strong feelings that you have. Um, I’m really shocked because I don’t recall leaving out those metrics and I’m really sorry.

Was it resolved in any way? Or what can I do to make this up? – So I think we need to re-present.

I think that we need to get the message together before we go in, make sure we go over all of our statistics, everything that we wanna cover, just start again. I’m really sorry that I swore at you before, by the way, this is just a make believe thing and I didn’t mean to do it.

(audience laughing) So um yeah, it’s just, I think we can nail this, all we need to do is just understand exactly what we want to do, go in there together and we will 100% own this presentation because we’ve done a lot of hard work and I think that we work really well together.

– Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

And thank you for apologising, I totally get where you’re coming from, you were really upset.

Um, we were working on that for six months so I totally take ownership of that and that was my fault, I’m sorry. – That’s cool.

I’m sorry, I had a baby this morning.

(audience laughing) – Me too, me too.

(audience applauding) Thank you.

Okay, and we’ll do, (laughs) Who is this woman over here, you were gonna, yes. Okay, what’s your name? – My name is Pra – Prat? – Yep. – Okay, cool.

So I’m going to let you choose one of these scenarios. Don’t choose scenario two, we already did that. – [Pra] Okay.

Okay let’s do number four? – [Amelie] Okay.

– So feedback from a co-worker.

So I’m the co-worker.

– Yeah, you’re the co-worker.

You’re giving me feedback, I’m receiving it. And let’s just say that the idea is for a design project, okay, I have it.

We’re going to redesign Godzilla, okay.

(audience laughing) So I woke up this morning and I had this really amazing idea.

– Uh huh.

– And it’s to redesign Godzilla.

So like instead of having like Godzilla in like Tokyo, maybe Godzilla is just like in the middle of the ocean and you know, just like eating fish.

– Uhhh.

(audience laughing) – Isn’t that a great idea? – But, I thought Godzilla’s supposed to be in Tokyo. If you’re redesigning it, – No. – I’m not sure if that’s a really good idea. – Okay, but like why? – Mmm, because we’ve already got this image of what Godzilla should be, so maybe we should come up with maybe an octocat instead? – I just, I’m just really married to this idea of Godzilla like not being in Tokyo, ’cause I just feel like it’s so cliche’.

And just living in the ocean and eating fish. Because I just feel like Godzilla just wants to retire and live a good life, like fishing on the ocean. – Okay, so maybe it could be like the last episode of Godzilla, right? – But why can’t it be the first episode? (audience laughing) – Um, hmmm. I’m not sure where we’re going with this. (laughs) – Does someone wanna try? – So, so you really wanna go with this idea? – I do.

– Should we maybe get someone else to come and see if it’s a good idea? – Yeah, why don’t we get another team member? Another team member, (clears throat loudly) another team member? (Amelie clearing her throat loudly) – I think we have one. – Yes.

– There and there and lots of them.

– Yes! Yes! – [Craig] Hi, how are you doing today? – Hi, pretty good.

– I’m just walking past and I saw you were having a really interesting debate and talk and I thought I would come see what you’re doing. – Yeah, okay, so I have this really great idea. So you know how like Godzilla is in Tokyo? I want Godzilla to be in the ocean.

Not in Tokyo, like living on the ocean and just like eating fish, ’cause like Godzilla’s like retiring and wants to live a good life just like fishing and eating fish.

– Okay, um Pray? Pre? – Yeah, I was just not so sure that that’s a good idea. ‘Cause ya know, Godzilla has a pretty strong image of what it’s supposed to be doing, destroying stuff, not really being this monster eating fish and retiring in the ocean. (laughs) – I must admit, I personally, I sort of feel the same. However, obviously you’ve got a reason for thinking that Godzilla should be like that.

So I’m just kinda curious as to why you think that would work given that there’s such a strong preconception about what Godzilla should be.

– That’s a really, that’s a really great statement. You know, I haven’t really thought about that. It just came to me while I was eating breakfast this morning, I just thought it was a really good idea. – Are you open to slightly changing it or are you completely wedded to that idea? – I mean, I really like the idea, but, it sounds like what you’re both saying is that this is not normal, typical behaviour for Godzilla, which I guess I understand. I just wanted something that was fresh and new that would make us a lot of money in terms of this new show that we’re working on.

– Maybe if we sort of change it.

You know we could sort of maybe ask some other people, but even if Godzilla had a baby maybe? (audience laughing) – Maybe we could add something more to this theme that you have. – Okay.

– You know, maybe Godzilla became the way you want it to be, basically lying around eating fish because of something else that has happened. – Okay, that’s a really good compromise.

This was great, thank you for talking this out with me. Awesome, thank you.

– All right. – Thanks.

(audience applauding) So what I really liked about that scenario as weird as it was, was that sometimes feedback doesn’t just happen between two people.

Sometimes more people have to get involved. And sometimes you’ll have people who are really stubborn and really wedded to their ideas.

And what this gentleman did, I don’t remember what your name is.

Craig? Okay great.

Craig mentioned, he like asked me, he dug in, basically those tips that I gave you.

He dug in to find out why am I wedded to this idea? Would I be open to change? And those are the kinds of questions that you should be asking when you have someone who’s very resistant to feedback.

So let’s switch back to, All right, so act six, remaining open.

I gave you tips on how to give feedback.

I gave you tips on how to receive feedback. I also provided you with a few scenarios on how to behave and engage when you have someone who’s difficult that you’re giving feedback to. How to behave and engage when you’re receiving feedback that is difficult.

And I think those are all really important. But if there’s one thing that I could leave you with, it’s to be open as humanly as possible.

Oftentimes you may not get feedback delivered, like I said, in the way that you want to hear it, and sometimes feedback just doesn’t make any sense. And even though it should be up to the person who’s giving you that feedback to be better, it’s also a two way conversation so it’s up to you to be better as well.

And I think a big part of that is about being open. So since I am the last keynote and I’m slightly crazy, I mean normal, I have a poem that I wrote for you.

Which is like cheesy but I’m gonna, gonna read anyway, that’s fine.

It’s about being open, specifically I wrote it for designers but I think it’s applicable in terms of giving and receiving feedback and just being open in general in life.

I think that’s really important.

Okay.

Open, I am standing here waiting for visibility. I want you to see me.

To see me for who I am, perhaps to even see me for who I be.

Because at the end of the day all we want to be is free. Open.

Liberation is meaningless unless we can step back and examine the lack prevalent in a system of oppression. Perhaps it’s worth it to question society’s obsession with a rapid transgression of our progression. Open.

The way we design has been a sign to us by the status quo and so maybe it’s time to fight not with might, but with sight, cultivating an awareness so bright we have not choice but to design for both truly holistic utility and delight.

Open.

Question everything, because we’re moving fast in this swing dancing with complexity, perfectly flawed in our creativity and flawless in our flexibility to recognise others as more than just numbers. We are the shapers of culture, defining a new structure. We are open.

Please be open.

Open.

Thank you.

(audience applauding) (upbeat music)