6 tips on giving feedback from an engineering director

Care to share?

The feedback culture is one of the most essential elements of working at Divante. It seems to me that my coworkers, protégés, and supervisors receive and give feedback well. This is half the battle, but we’re all still improving. I’ve observed that people need information about their work, ways to improve, and possibilities to develop. If they get those things, they appreciate it.

For me, giving feedback is a kind of art. You can’t take a schematic approach here, however tempting it might be for an engineer. You must not forget that everyone is an individual. Here are some tips on how to do this properly based on my own experience.

1. Give feedback honestly, systematically, and consistently

Personally, it’s very important to be honest when I give feedback and to do it systematically and consistently. Of course, I follow the standards developed over the years in Divante by myself and other leaders. I want my feedback to be honest and of an equally good level for everyone. We often talk with others to exchange experiences and develop our information skills.

2. See it from a broad perspective

My point of view may be completely different from that of my other colleagues. The key element of feedback is information from the person's workmates. Because of this, 360 feedback is an obligatory element. I collect information from people about people in two areas: technical skills and attitude. This is how we do it at Divante. 

I approach it individually and quite liberally. Everyone has a different perspective and can’t always be honest and fair about every topic. Talking to more people gives you objectivity and a broad perspective. 

3. Keep it face to face

I’d like to touch on the importance of conversation. A questionnaire, form, or messages will not give you the emotions behind the comments and often leaves room for overinterpretation. They limit the possibilities of having true understanding. That’s why it’s very important for me to talk face to face with everyone, or the majority of people, while collecting 360 feedback. I also encourage other leaders to do so. It costs time, but you can't really place a value on feedback.

4. Be flexible

When I plan feedback, I try to avoid falling into a pattern. In general, it’s not easy when you’re preparing a lot of feedback in a given period or for the same person multiple times. I try to catch the progression or regression from the last meeting and pay attention to new issues.

5. Keep it fresh

To have a clean and fair look, I never give feedback on the day I collect or prepare it. On the other hand, you shouldn’t wait too long either. I also try not to collect, prepare, and give periodic feedback to several people at the same time. Thoughts and words may not be remembered correctly, and the context may escape me.

6. Respect personalities

It’s crucial for the person being given feedback to feel cared for and treated individually. You have to focus on facts and future opportunities for improvement and development. You must not try to change personality traits. It’s crucial that the person receiving feedback has the opportunity to always present their perspective, especially when the feedback isn’t the best.

Finally, tread softly

Giving feedback, as well as receiving feedback, requires maturity. I don't mean just age because maturity is more than a number. It doesn't matter if we are 20 or 40 years old. We must remember that the other person may simply not be able to cope with something. This is a great responsibility because you have a real human in your hands, including their development, feelings, emotions, and professional life, which can also affect their private life.

Published August 15, 2022