Thanksgiving. A holiday for eating turkey, watching football, and yes, giving thanks.
“Thanks” is an important word in feedback, so much so that it is the name of my favorite book on the subject: Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. This book discusses feedback in three primary types: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. I read a lot of pop psychology books. Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, the Heath brothers, Angela Duckworth. But among that library, Thanks for the Feedback has most changed the way that I interact with feedback in the Judge Program on a daily basis.
There are two key ways that “thanks” plays into feedback.
First, thanks communicates appreciation, one of the three primary types of feedback. Too often the Judge Program’s feedback culture ignores this type of feedback in favor of critical “coaching” type feedback. We all need to feel appreciated from time to time, and not just when it comes time for Exemplar nominations. The biggest problem with Exemplar when it comes to giving thanks is that the natural scope of the program can narrow our focus to only the most impactful activities, and we tend to ignore the smaller things, especially if those things are “just judges doing their jobs.”
“You delivered that ruling well,” isn’t exactly a groundbreaking, Exemplar nomination-worthy action, but it can be a solid piece of appreciation feedback. It isn’t the world’s most actionable feedback. But actionable feedback isn’t necessarily the goal of appreciation; appreciation isn’t meant to be a guide for how to get better. However, appreciation is important feedback that should not go unsaid.
Second, thanks communicates a positive response to the feedback that you receive. Saying “thank you for the feedback” is the ideal counter to feedbacklash, a dangerous phenomenon in the judge program’s review culture.
Of course, there are many ways to give thanks for feedback. In the past, I’ve posted thank you messages on Facebook, either on the reviewer’s wall or in tagging them in a post. Thanking them publicly gives the reviewer a nice bit of acknowledgment and might encourage others to give feedback as well. Perhaps that’s a bit of a Machiavellian strategy. But I really do think the best way to foster an activity is to encourage it with positivity, using the carrot versus the stick.
This holiday season, reflect on the great things you see judges accomplishing and write some appreciation reviews. Express gratitude for the feedback you’ve received. Take time to give thanks.