The ability to learning new skills, maintain perspective, think creatively and make sound decisions are essential skills to thrive not only at work but also in your personal life. There are four good reasons for this:
1. The daily avalanche of information means it is essential to know how to critically assess what you read, absorb useful information and be able to act upon it more rapidly.
2. The world of work is changing fast with ever greater automation. To stay relevant and engaged, you need to learn faster and adapt more quickly.
3. Life can be busy, stressful and often complicated. The ability to focus energy on what is controllable and take practical steps to manage your wellbeing can improve your zest for living and promote resilience.
4. Society, work and even hobbies are becoming more complex. This increasing complexity means that the ability to analyse situations logically and find creative ways to solve problems are skills everyone needs.
A useful way to seek self-improvement is to gain honest critical feedback. If you are open to other's views and ideas, they are more likely to share these with you. Welcoming feedback also encourages people to want to help and support your desire to learn and improve. However, this can be daunting as it is easy to get trapped into fearing negative comments and imagining the worst. The result is that we often shy away from asking.
Here is a way to structure feedback so that it is frank, constructive and straightforward. It takes practice yet with effort and an open mind, you will see just what a difference it can make provide timely, practical and useful feedback. It is called the Be brief – debrief. It is speedy, specific to the behaviour observed in one particular situation. It is also collaborative and future-focused. Try it for yourself:
1. Agree on the process in advance
Springing feedback on someone is rarely well received unless it is outright praise. Make sure that you agree with an individual or team that you will all use the ''be brief – debrief'' structure to provide feedback after a specific event/task completion.
2. Share the framework with all those involved
Doing so will ensure that they are thinking in advance about what is going well, what might improve, and what might be done differently in the future. Merely having these in mind will enhance resourcefulness and increase the power of observation. It will also help eliminate the fear-factor that creates a mental barrier to giving or receiving feedback. This approach provides psychological safety and improves confidence about opening up to share what is observed and encourages constructive ideas.
3. The process: Be brief – debrief
First set time aside to conduct the feedback as soon as possible after the task completion/client meeting/or other situation. It is a deceptively quick process yet does require the effort of thinking deeply about the nature and impact of the feedback that you provide. Here are the three areas of feedback to share:
• One thing that you did that went well - and which of your strengths were used.
• One thing that you did that could have gone better – and why.
• One thing to consider doing differently for your benefit in the future.
4. Collaborate to support each other
Write down what is said and take a moment to thank the individual providing the feedback. Make sure you build in some time for self-reflection. Remember to focus on the things that went well as much as what might have gone better. Do this deliberately as the brain's negativity bias can kick in, and this can result in rumination on what didn't work. Take a moment to write down the words used to describe your strengths and any suggestions for change that hold appeal. Consider these questions:
How can you leverage your strengths?
Which of the suggestions will you take forward?
Who can support you?
What resources can you tap to help you?
What's the first step?
When will you do this?
Now you can build from a strong base with confidence that you can act to expand your skill set and tackle any challenge.
5. Action orientated
The process works well as it ends with providing an idea or suggestion for improvement. The person giving the feedback is encouraged to think deeply about what is helpful and useful rather than just commenting on what they are seeing. Using the ''be brief – debrief'' can be an energising experience. It works well in pairs as well as with teams. For example, using the format to exchange individual feedback and then for collective learning, e.g. ''One thing that we did well' - and so on.