Over the summer I’ve been doing a poetry workshop that Vic teaches in conjunction with Iowa University. It’s a real privilege to be able to do it, and I’m sure my writing practice will improve as a result. But you know what the most profound and measurable result for me has been? Overcoming my fear of feedback. That’s because the workshop method that is used by our International Institute of Modern Letters and at Iowa sets up a safe space in which a careful, considered critique of each others’ work can be given. We read, and respond to, what’s brought to each session by each participant and in the process get to understand each other better.
We approach each work-in-progress in a spirit of critical appreciation for that work’s organic intentions. We’re for it. In workshops devoted to critiquing work, your writing will be read and discussed by everyone in your group, giving you the benefit of a careful, supportive readership. You are expected to give the same considered feedback to others on their work.
Now I can’t wait to hear what I can improve on in my work. I know that makes me sound like some kind of masochist, but it’s kind of exciting. I’m finding it easier to make suggestions to or ask questions other workshop members about what they were intending when the framed their words in a certain way. It’s like having a new self-improvement brain installed where the crusty old defensive one was. I reckon it’s worth trying the same methods out at work. Here’s what I’m going to do more of in 2017:
- Be respectful of the effort that others have put into a piece of work and show a genuine interest in what they are doing.
- Invite feedback with a change mindset: be keen to find out how you can learn and grow.
- Be awake to the number of times people re-interpret what you say to them. Sometimes people hear or read cool things in your content that you didn’t even know was there. Just say to yourself “I’ll take that”.
- People are not always “right” with their feedback. But it’s good to come up with a clear reason why you disagree – why you may want to stick with a certain course of action or word order.
The team at Buffer have a great guide on how to give and receive feedback at work, with a simple process they call the mastermind that you may want to try out in your own work context. It may help you make the most of your organisation’s own performance management or coaching processes.