In today’s Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast episode, host Dan Neumann is joined by Christy Erbeck. Christy is a Principal Transformation Consultant at AgileThought with over 25 years of experience in domestic and international consulting, training, and coaching, working in both software development and non-product-focused environments, including manufacturing (discrete and process), distribution, sales and marketing.
Today, they’re going to be talking about the topic of feedback. They discuss the importance of giving and receiving feedback, feedback fallacies, how to practice giving better feedback, how people respond to both poorly-constructed and well-constructed feedback, and how to give great feedback through the SBI model.
Feedback is a big part of what agile coaches are asked to do. Giving and receiving feedback is critically important and takes a tremendous amount of insight and awareness to both give and receive feedback in a positive way. Tune in to hear all of Christy Erbeck’s key takeaways on the topic of feedback.
Like what you heard? Check out our podcast page for more episodes full of interesting discussions, agile insights, and helpful resources.
Intro: [00:00] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches Corner. I’m your host Dan Neumann and today I’m joined by a colleague here in the transformation practice, Christy Erbeck and of course what you’re going to hear are Christy’s and my opinions, not necessarily those of AgileThought other companies or other people. And I’m excited that today we are going to be talking about the topic of feedback.
Christy Erbeck: [00:39] Hi Dan. Glad to be here. This is, this is going to be an interesting conversation. I’m looking forward to it.
Dan Neumann: [00:46] Let’s, uh, so why is feedback of particular interest to you right now?
Christy Erbeck: [00:52] Well it’s of particular interest right now because I actually have to go back to August, 2018 when we were out at Agile 2018 in San Diego. And the closing keynote address was given by Kim Scott who wrote the book “Radical Candor.” And I loved her keynote and thought it was really impactful and insightful. And so I picked up her book and I had not read it. So almost nine months later, I’ve not yet read the book, but we started going through the Eckerd leadership program for AgileThought. Um, and one of the first things that they had us do was learn the SBI model, which stands for situation behavior impact. And so we were talked to, we were shared, we were given examples and we were asked and encouraged to practice this model with our colleagues, with our clients. And so the whole topic of feedback has been on my mind and, and radical candor is on my book list. It was number four on my list to read this year in 2019. And so I’m, I’ve just cracked it open and I feel like it’s really timely because shortly after that class for the situation, behavior impact class, um, my Harvard Business Review magazine showed up at my doorstep and the cover is all about the feedback fallacy. So I feel like I’m studying that topic right now.
Dan Neumann: [02:32] You’ve had a bunch of these things kind of come together somewhat serendipitously to create that interest. And you know, as agile coaches, we find ourselves often in a situation where we’re expected to give feedback. If we’re training somebody on Scrum or coaching somebody on Scrum after they’ve got some of the basic mechanics down, there’s feedback on the effectiveness of the Scrum events. There’s a coaching around how conflict is managed or the ways different interactions are handled with the team. So feedback and doing it effectively is a big part of often what we’re asked to do.
Christy Erbeck: [03:09] Absolutely. And the way in which we give feedback as well as the way in which we receive feedback is critically important. We have to understand the nuances of feedback and when is the right time to provide that. Um, how do we set the stage so that the person that we are going to give feedback to can hear it and can receive it, process it, et cetera. So it takes a tremendous amount of insight and awareness to both give and receive feedback in a, in a positive way.
Dan Neumann: [03:49] Yeah and a positive way comes to mind, especially with feedback. And I somewhat jokingly, and I think some of it with a grain of truth allude to the, the strong German heritage in my background and like we’re, I feel like I’m much better at giving quote feedback on things that maybe are areas for development and that’s not, yeah, I would say not always. Maybe not often the best way to actually coach somebody through or to foster new behaviors or reinforce positive behaviors. That’s a certainly a growth opportunity for me. And one that I think you mentioned you were intentionally practicing. As trying to not just give quick feedback when it’s something that, uh, should be done differently or I think should be done differently. And maybe that’s, but we can explore that a little bit. The feedback fallacy talks a lot about what we often think of as feedback. What, we, the people who are in management, we people who think we’re good at something, give that, you know, feedback.
Christy Erbeck: [04:51] Absolutely. I’ve always been told that I, I give great feedback and that I have such insight into how people think and, um, what they might be going through. And yet when I read the “Feedback Fallacy,” which was written by Marcus Buckingham and Amy Goodall, um, uh, the, the three fallacies they talk about is the source of truth, learning and excellence. And these are really very self centered ways in which we give feedback. And you know, for example, I might, um, say something about what I observed, a behavior of you doing, um, and for whatever reason that is not at all what you intended, but because I think I know better than you or I think that I am, um, maybe more seasoned in something than you are, um, I’m going to share my perspective. And that may not at all be the truth in any way, shape or form. And so the fact that I think I know you better than you know yourself is uh, a fallacy and it also takes away your ability to um, your empowerment in a way if I’m telling you something, right? So what I liked about the situation, behavior impact or the SBI model is that the only thing that I’m sharing with you, that’s my opinion is the impact that your behavior in a particular situation had on me. And so then yes, that’s true. Everything else if I were to give you feedback, um, may not and most likely would not be true. Does that make sense?
Dan Neumann: [06:53] What I heard you saying is when we’re giving that feedback, especially when there is no one right way to do it, referring to not ourselves as the expert but referring to the impact of how it on us. So what I want to give is one example they use is about the airplane checklist or the right way for a nurse to draw blood. Like, there is a right way to do that and that case there is a source of truth and feedback on incorrect things that could lead to dangerous situations is completely valid. It gets much less, “I’m the source of truth,” when it gets into things like, um, the way somebody facilitated or the way somebody did a training or the way they phrased a particular thing or the why of a particular behavior and that’s where the situation, behavior impact or SBI that you were referencing, it comes in. So here’s the situation, here’s the behavior I saw and here’s the emotional impact it had on me and now we have an opportunity to explore it. It isn’t a, gee, I didn’t like the way you did that. Here’s the way to do that better.
Christy Erbeck: [08:03] Right. Definitely. The other thing that I liked about the feedback fallacy was that when we are talking to people or giving feedback on something that somebody may not be really good at or actually creating, um, a sense of fight or flight in them and they can’t hear it. So this is one of the reasons why when people give us feedback that is perceived as critical or negative, we may be shut down and can’t hear it as well because we, we have literally gone into that mode of survival. And yet when we can give feedback on something that is in our giftings, they talked about, we learn the most in our comfort or most open to possibility, most creative, insightful and productive in those areas that we have a natural gifting or tendency, um, to, to work in. So just the space and the physiological reaction that we have when we’re receiving feedback is important too to consider. And I should correct myself. This I said Amy Goodall and it’s actually Ashley Goodall from, she’s a Cisco senior VP.
Dan Neumann: [09:30] I wasn’t sure if I should give you that feedback or not.
Christy Erbeck: [09:36] Well I definitely want to make sure I’m attributing it because it’s a wonderful, wonderful article. Yeah,
Dan Neumann: [09:43] Yeah, and I’m going to have to look for other writings by these folks too, because this article is fantastic. So Christy, what you were mentioning with the fight or flight in receiving feedback reminds me of the book crucial conversations. And in there, a crucial conversation is defined as one in which opinions differ, stakes are high and it’s an emotional topic or for some reason it’s emotionally charged. And in that, once we have that, that trigger, we can tell ourselves a story and unconsciously, often we tell ourselves a story and that feeds our reaction to it, which can be this, this fight or flight reaction where we just kind of get immediately stupid because of all the, the um, uh, the chemicals that are released in our brain when we feel threatened and when we feel attacked. And so creating some safety to talk about the impact or, or make explicit the story that we’re telling ourselves and then ask for validation, hey, when that happened, here’s the story I told myself about that. And really offering that up so that we can more intelligently think about it than fight or flight.
Christy Erbeck: [10:58] Absolutely. And if we think through that, the, the language of the story I’m telling myself or the story I’m making up is something that Brené Brown talks about in her book, “Dare to Lead,” and in her Netflix special, “The Call to Courage,” because this is something that we do. We make these stories up in our heads and until we’re able to confirm or reconcile the story that we’re making up with behavior or the reaction that the other person is having towards us, uh, we can really go off track really quickly and go down a path that we don’t want to, don’t need to, et cetera. And in her book “Dare to Lead,” she tells the story of she and her husband taking an early morning swim and a lake and she’s trying to connect with her husband and she feels like he’s her off. And you know, they, she basically says before they get out of the water, Steve, you know, the story I’m making up is this. And, you know, help me understand where you’re coming from. And just using that framework of, this is what I’m telling myself. Is that really what you intend? Of course it’s not what he intended. He was not trying to blow her off, but he had something else going on in his head that was causing him to react in a certain way. Um, and as husband and wife, you know, if you’ve been married for any amount of time, you know what it’s like to have a story in your head and it not be confirmed or reconciled in a short amount of time. And then lots of things happen that have unintended consequences. And your point about safety, an SBI model can really create a safe framework and space for us to show up fully as humans as well as to have those difficult conversations, um, that are appropriate for the workplace. So what I love about the second fallacy, the source of truth is that we see this showing up on teams who tried to size or estimate their work. We know how horrible humans are at estimation. Like we just don’t have the capacity to do that accurately. And so we are, like they say, the first problem with feedback is that humans are unreliable raiders of other humans. We, we just don’t have the capacity, uh, to do that well. We think we do and this is where our egos get in the way often is that we think we can rate someone very well but in truth we don’t have the whole picture of them and we are looking at them from one viewpoint and we can see something really just from one viewpoint versus having um, an objective way of rating or evaluating or estimating how they, how well or not well they do something.
Dan Neumann: [14:26] So Christy, we’ve talked about kind of the, how we learn and the importance of creating psychological safety and giving feedback in a way that we’re not well, we’re minimizing the potential that somebody is going to have a fight or flight reaction to that. It’s always possible, you can’t control somebody reactions to things. But there are ways to go about that. The SBI framework is one of those making the story we tell ourselves explicit and asking if that’s the right story or not. Trying to get some validation. And then we touched briefly at the beginning kind of ourselves as the source of truth as one of those challenges with providing feedback to in some situations like the the airline pilot, the nurse. Yup. Maybe there is a right way to do it in a lot of situations there aren’t.
Christy Erbeck: [15:19] Yeah. There’s such a nuanced, variety of ways, especially in the agile coaching world or even in the world where we’re having to give team members feedback on their behavior or how they are showing up on the team. And yeah, there is no one right way to do that. All we can talk about is the impact that it, that it had on us. Right,
Dan Neumann: [15:47] Right and with the, with working with people over time, you um, you end up with, uh, it was mentioned in the episode I did with Esther Derby. You want to put this confirmation bias so you, once you have a framework in mind for how you believe somebody is good at this or bad at this or, or um, doesn’t follow through on things. Let’s say we have somebody who doesn’t follow through or that’s my impression, well then we have this confirmation bias and we’ll start noticing more when they don’t follow through. It might not be a significant percentage, but those opportunities where we see something that confirms our existing belief are more sticky than those instances that would refute our belief. And so yeah, I’d encourage folks to listen to the episode with Esther Derby where we talk about managers role and agility and this feedback thing. We are, we are poor raiders of other people’s behavior of their, their output.
Christy Erbeck: [16:47] Right. And so the article actually talks about instead of looking always at outputs, look at what are the outcomes you’re getting from the, the folks and how can you create situations that will allow for more consistent levels of excellence or the type of outcome that you were looking for. Look at the environment, look at the system. How is that system and that environment supporting these people in doing and creating the outcomes that you are searching for and that you need?
Dan Neumann: [17:29] Yup. Both in the, the source of truth as well as in kind of helping people excel, there’s the concept of being really specific, not being vague or general about, hey, you did a great job with that but here are, here are some things I noticed maybe really specifically or here’s reaction I had to that specific item and I think HR and annual reviews and that whole process. There was another article that I came across recently, are really looking at the biases, both gender biases and ethnic biases and the way we recall what’s happened to, oh let’s say over the course of the year and asking, you know, how did this person do is opening that for much more bias than if we put a much more concrete framework in place for, for providing that feedback. Cause yeah, we are, we are raiders of other people’s behavior.
Christy Erbeck: [18:23] Absolutely. And if you look at how most companies do annual performance reviews, when it comes time to conduct those annual performance reviews, often managers can only remember the last 30 days. And if they have not interacted, documented, um, provided immediate feedback along the way, as a employee, my evaluation may only take into consideration the last 30 days because one that’s probably all they can consume as managers. They can’t hold any more information if they haven’t documented it along the way. Um, and then there’s a perception. So if the last interaction I had with my manager was less than stellar, they will be biased because that’s human nature.
Dan Neumann: [19:18] You have the, the ease of recalling things that have happened recently, which is something we’re pretty good at. And then the other recall bias is where things have been particularly emotionally impactful, which serves, you know, served caveman great, right? If you ate something that made you sick or you had an animal that tried to kill you, remembering that and turning that into a new behavior is really valuable. But having somebody who steps in at once over the course of a year be burned into your memory and offsetting so many other good things is not helpful if we’re trying to get a well-rounded perspective of somebody’s performance.
Christy Erbeck: [19:59] And then finally one of the one thing that I’d like to point out about feedback is the sooner you can provide that feedback and they called it a high priority interrupt, the better. And you did a great job actually today in providing one of our clients some immediate high priority interrupt feedback by uh, you know, telling him what you liked about how he supported you in the daily Scrum, how he supported the Scrum Framework and the events and the purpose of the dailie Scrum. And this is really important. It’s the most and the best use of your time to interrupt so that he knows that this is positive behavior. Um, too often we’re quick to interrupt the negative behavior and we let the positive behavior go by. Well, we want to reinforce the good things because that’s what we want our focus on and we want to redirect to that level of acuity and business acumen. Great job in doing that today with our client.
Dan Neumann: [21:10] Well that made me feel good and it’s, um, it’s the growth opportunity for me. That’s certainly not, um, gosh, I don’t know. Maybe child rearing was different back when I was being reared. Um, because boy, you know, it seemed like the corrective feedback of chew with your mouth shut and you know, enunciate clearly and you name it. By golly, if you weren’t doing it right you heard about it in my family.
Christy Erbeck: [21:38] And that was very standard and it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to correct and redirect behavior. But again to the articles point, we respond better and more thoroughly when we are in our comfort zone, than we do when we are in our fight or flight zone. It makes so much sense to insert those positive reinforcements and those positive opportunities for feedback, um, specifically around behavior.
Dan Neumann: [22:17] And related to that, I’m looking forward to one of the upcoming podcasts with another person from Eckerd college with Joe Carella who in addition to doing some of the training for record is a psychologist. He works with sports folks and I’m looking forward to his feedback, his interpretation of things like sports coaches. I’m a Michigan state guy and Tom Izzo in the basketball tournament made a lot of, uh, news headlines with, um, basically ripping one of the freshmen pretty hard when he came off the court. And I think it’s interesting to explore and in this case with a guy who’s got a psychology degree in practices and psychology, that type of feedback versus how we often hear agile coaching community. And in talking about coaching and they’re very different animals. And um, also then like, where’s the line between somewhat kind of abusive behavior and you know, is it the tough love thing or what’s going on there? So I’m looking forward to exploring that with Joe Carella from, from Eckerd college.
Christy Erbeck: [23:20] And that’ll be great. And I would love to hear his thoughts on that because I think there’s a delicate balancing act between never giving someone feedback that talks about the negative impact that the behavior had on me. Um, because we, we also don’t want everybody to get a trophy just for showing up. Right? That is, you know, there’s a huge disincentive in that type of feedback where everybody’s the same, everybody is not the same. And we want, we want to be able to help individuals improve in how they collaborate, communicate and show up as whole hearted human beings in the workplace. Because when we have that, then we are much closer to the innovation and creativity and change that our world needs today without it.
Dan Neumann: [24:20] And high performing teams need a bunch of different people. What’s the phrase? If we’re the same one of us as expendable, that type of that type of thing. So yeah. How do you leverage the strengths? How do you provide feedback without trying to turn it into cookie cutter? Is there anything else that comes to mind for you on the topic of feedback?
Christy Erbeck: [24:43] I would say the topic that comes to mind is the context and way in which feedback is provided. You know, I know 360 performance feedback is really popular right now and has been for a long time. I have been the recipient of 360 degree feedback that has been really powerful and empowering. I’ve also been the recipient of 360 degree feedback that is crushing and eviscerating and uh, not only does language matter, it really matters how one gives that type of feedback so that, um, we can take it in and, and constructively grow and enhance ourselves and our skills, uh, versus the opposite. You know, it’s painful to receive 360 degree feedback that’s unfiltered. And while people might say, well, I’m just being direct, actually, you’re being harmful and destructive and hurtful intentionally and you’re using a tool to get away with it, that’s not okay.
Dan Neumann: [26:03] Yeah, direct is good, but direct doesn’t mean tactless and I, you know, I think sometimes those dwell, I’m just telling you like it is. But you don’t have to be a jerk about it. You know? Yeah. And that’s where I’m, I’m curious, I know there’s the book radical candor and there’s some other notions like that. I know I saw some topics at the agile conference last year, I didn’t end up attending those. Um, but I’m curious, that’ll be part of my continuous learning journey I think. Really exploring the feedback topic. And related to that, one thing that I know I’m finding helpful as I’m practicing feedback and as you’re practicing feedback is to, we’re doing some deep briefing on that. So using some of the feedback either together with a third party or to each other and then kind of reflecting back on how, how did that feel, you know. what would be some improvements on the feedback? So feedback on the feedback and I’m finding that to be particularly helpful. And if so if folks are trying to improve their feedback and they have a partner who can help them along that journey or develop together with them, uh, I think I’d encourage that. I’m finding that to be a particularly valuable activity myself.
Christy Erbeck: [27:22] Definitely. And I don’t want to misrepresent the book, “Radical Candor.” I have not read it yet. What, so I’m not sure that that’s what she’s talking about is being overly direct. Uh, what I remember about her keynote that impressed me and what made me pause was she told a story about, um, and so someone she ended up having to fire and he had, he sat there saying, why didn’t you tell me before? And so I think there’s this balance of, of being honest with somebody in an empathic way. Um, and it was really, she, she, if I remember correctly, she was afraid to confront and have the difficult conversation with this person. And in the end she hurt not only herself, but also the person she ended up having to fire and the overall team dynamic. Um, and so to me, radical candor means almost radical candor with yourself. To what extent are you willing to have an honest conversation with yourself about how this person is impacting you were impacting me. And once I have that conversation now, can I prepare and do I have the tools and the techniques at my disposal to go have that radical conversation, um, candid conversation with this person to help, not to hurt.
Dan Neumann: [28:51] Okay. Yeah. I would assume that the author was not interested in hurting or advocating for that. I feel like there’s a risk that people take something like that much like agile, right? Well, we’re agile. We don’t need to document anything. Well, that’s bull. In fact, talking to, to some of the folks who are the signers of the agile manifesto, some of those guys are really detailed, highly technical, right? They’re not just like, you know, we’re going to go code some stuff through pretty disciplined folks. And, and so for this misinterpretation of what we value, you know, working software over comprehensive documentation to all of a sudden become, well, we don’t document. That’s extremely unfortunate and I guess I’m worried about the, you know, short attention span theater saying we should be radically whatever, providing radical feedback and doing it in a horribly destructive way. So I’ll look forward to that. Unfortunately, my reading list is longer than my attention span for consuming long format. So I don’t know when I will get to that. Um, but I’ll, I’ll look forward to that. I will probably have the follow through to watch Brené Brown’s Netflix special. You mentioned that. So I can probably take the time to do that. And then what else is inspiring you other, you’re reading it or watching it. What’s, what’s inspiring Christy these days?
Christy Erbeck: [30:16] Yeah, well I’m still coming off the high of becoming a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator™ and um, all that goes along with that. It’s fabulous. And I’m looking forward to our next podcast, which we’ll talk about Dare to Lead™ and I’m really excited about that. Um, so right now that’s really inspiring and it keeps me going.
Dan Neumann: [30:40] Yeah, no, it sounds like it was a pretty powerful experience to go through the program. Lots of value there. And now there’s a, of course, the, the show to go with it that other people can consume if they have their Netflix membership of course. And we’ll explore that as part of our, uh, our next time together here, uh, which I think is going to be before too long.
Christy Erbeck: [31:05] Sounds good.
Dan Neumann: [31:05] All right. And if people have topics they want, they can give us feedback and they could email firstname.lastname@example.org or they can tweet it to us with the #AgileThoughtPodcast and we’ll welcome that feedback whether it’s in SBI form or not. Alright. Thank you.
Christy Erbeck: [31:25] Thanks Dan.
Outro: [31:28] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast brought to you by AgileThought, get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.
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