24 Nov, 2022

Feedback Club: Why it is nothing like Fight Club but can still change the world

Lee Warlow, Delivery Lead

5 min read

Feedback has a horrible reputation, well earned from conversations where the parties are uncomfortable and the subject matter generally even more uncomfortable.

We have all had the feeling of dread when someone says, “can we catch up? I have some feedback.” Even though we know that feedback can be good, we rarely associate it that way. Feedback club gives the opportunity to give and receive feedback more often, helping grow the skills and confidence of team members when handling feedback, while setting a framework to make it more comfortable and psychologically safe.

I hear you asking - What is Feedback Club?

This is not a clandestine club catering to anarchists and malcontents looking to shift the balance of power. It’s a club to allow team members to get in the habit of providing, and receiving, relevant and personal feedback to each other on a planned regular basis.

The first rule of Feedback Club – ALWAYS talk about Feedback Club

Being open and transparent about catching up for Feedback club is a great thing! Spruik it, let your colleagues know that you and Sandy are catching up offsite after lunch for feedback club. I know with my first catch up, I felt awkward and that what I was going to bring to the table was going to be seen as petty or clutching at straws. I had been with the team less than three months and felt it was not the time to be telling people how to do anything. The feedback I received (after a couple of minutes of feeling awkward) was honest, personal and things inside my control that I could change. I also got to give my thoughts and feelings and have them discussed and validated. It was incredible.

What do you talk about in Feedback Club?

It’s a time to talk about specific things, be they actions or conversations that have affected you directly, performed by the person you are catching up with. Let me give an example of a good version. “I really appreciate the time you took to help me out during the pairing session this week, it made me feel like part of the team.” That’s a message both parties can gain from, while making sure that it is relevant, personal, and owned by the person receiving it. Here is an example of what not to say in Feedback club, “Henrik was annoyed when you paired with him last week because you were pretty rude about his bad code”. First, Henrik would never do that, he is like a mix of Gandalf and Tyler Durden, and the person that introduced me to Feedback club. Secondly, that is not my story to tell, if someone else is upset they deserve to be able to close that loop. Feedback can be positive, critical or neutral but if it matters to you, then it's important the other person hears it.

Are there any other rules to Feedback Club?

There sure is, but they are logical, and I am sure you will just be thinking some of them don’t need to be said:

  • Let people finish before you start talking.
    Sure you can be an active listener and nod and say yep, but let the other person say everything they want to say before having your turn. It's more than ok to have feelings about what is being said, just don’t take it out on the person you are talking to, as it won’t encourage honesty.

  • Bring at least one critical item to the table.
    Each catch up, we are trying to build the comfort level of both receiving and giving critical feedback.

  • The last part is how often you should be doing Feedback club, and that is quite simple in the setup.
    If there are only two of you, then once a fortnight, otherwise weekly and rotate who you speak to each week. I have found this gets best results when it's off site (a walk to get a coffee is a great example) and face to face, this allows for the most engaging level of conversation, free from professional distractions and removing awkward technology interruptions.

How Feedback Club changes the world

I could spout theoretical reasons why Feedback club can change the world, but instead let me tell you how it changed mine. My first session, I was super nervous I must admit, I was going to be catching up with someone that had tremendous experience and whose opinion I was desperate to get on the right side of. We sat down after a small false start, due to the level of background noise, I went first delivering a piece of positive feedback and a piece of critical feedback. Both were received well, and I felt enormous relief, until the dread hit… I had done the easy bit, now I was about to get told how much I suck. The feedback was delivered in such a way that I found myself nodding, agreeing, and having a lightbulb moment. Something that I had always found great pride in, could be perceived in a negative light, and do the opposite of what I had intended. Boom, queue the change music and fast forward three weeks until our next catch up and they noticed the change in my behaviour and raised it.

Feedback Club makes us comfortable with growing and helping others grow, if that is something you want to embrace, I can’t recommend this highly enough. If you have any questions, thoughts or observations please don’t hesitate to ask.


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