Constructive Written Feedback: Mission Impossible?

So, I’ve been writing this course for about the past month. All of our feedback training, in house, consists of how to give verbal feedback, in person. In our virtual workplace, where much of our feedback takes place over email or through instant messaging, a new approach was recommended.

The hope is that my course will be seen as suitable for modification and use by other business lines, and for other positions (consultants, team leaders, managers). Yes, my manager has vision 🙂

Special funding was obtained to create and pilot this course, and a second one defining our monitoring process and how it’s changed with the advent of performance management, which two of my colleagues undertook.

Last week, I had the opportunity to stand and deliver.

The target for the course was my colleagues, so facilitating held a special trepidation for me this time around. Plus, my manager was sitting in. No pressure. None at all 😉

The session started out with an introduction by my manager, who also presented me with my long-awaited trainer certification.

You may remember that I achieved my trainer certification last March. The actual, suitable-for-framing certificate was almost a year in the coming. I have it now, though. I’ll take a picture and share once I’ve had the dear thing framed.

I’m a bit of an accomplishment junkie. I frame every certificate of completion, award, or acknowledgement of completion I get. The wall at work is getting a little crowded. Like my C.V. on this site, my certificates are a concrete reminder of what I’ve done.

My manager also advised the team that we had been nominated for a service excellence award for our collective work on the recent new hire training. We’ll see what comes of that.

The course itself was designed in a participant-centered format with lots of activities.

I also tortured them with a pre-course activity, asking them to write four different types of written feedback specific to our positions.

Here’s the outline:

  • What do we already know about feedback (brainstorm)? Is this knowledge applicable to constructive written feedback?
  • Objective and agenda.
  • Administrivia.
  • Icebreaker (two truths and a lie). Rhetoric, a skill we don’t know we use every day. How to tailor our message to our reader.
  • The four kinds of feedback (demonstration).
  • The challenges of giving and receiving feedback (marketplace).
difficulties of feedback

The results of the challenges of giving and receiving feedback activity.

  • How perception affects our feedback.
  • The three principles of constructive written feedback (discovery).
3 principles discovery

The results of the three priciples of constructive written feedback discovery activity.

  • Recurring issues and a five-step strategy to address them.
  • Practice in making our messages clear, concise, and readable (large group, cooperative).
  • Critique of the (anonymous) pre-course assignments and presentation of highlights (small group).
  • Sharing of best practices.
  • Review of objective.
  • Knowledge transfer – participants made a promise to themselves in the form of tasks allowing 28 days of practice to create new habits with respect to constructive written feedback.

The best part of the facilitation was eliciting the fabulous and valuable group discussions we had. My questioning techniques were certainly given a workout.

I had handouts, a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, and a facilitators’ guide, but conspicuously, no participant guide. All of the learning content arose from the class and a several points, participants were asked to capture the information generated from various activities and report back to the class.

My colleagues’ presentation on Monitoring: Beyond the Basics was informative. At our level, we haven’t had much in the way of structure or procedure. Many of us started the job by being thrown into the deep end and learning by doing.

Yes, there is a course intended to introduce us to our job duties, but that is general in nature and geared to our position across business lines and departments. Our new procedures, flow-charts, and reports will give us that much-needed job-specific structure, moving forward.

We might even be delivering the written feedback and monitoring courses to all new and acting advisors in the future, in-person or virtually.

Who knows what will result from this past month’s work? One thing for sure is this: I’ll let you know.

Stay tuned.

This is the learning mutt, signing off for today.

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