by Deepali Handa
Follow Deepali on Tweeter @DeepaliHandaNeo
I have been actively seeking out organizations in Buffalo that comprise of women leaders. SheLeads@JacobsSchool was the first group I encountered that encompassed that. I was invited to attend a meeting today and went in with a bit of apprehension, but was immediately put at ease by a room full of like-minded colleagues. I was excited to meet this group of very accomplished UB women faculty, who are at various rungs of the leadership ladder, including the very top. We had a robust discussion about the topic of the day “Strategies for Giving Effective Feedback” to our students and trainees, and in general to our reports. This was the first session in a series that includes discussions on how to give & receive feedback from our peers & seniors, which will be tackled in the subsequent meetings.
We all supervise, advise, mentor professionals who bring with them a broad spectrum of skill-sets and personalities, and we all give feedback as part of our professional duties, with varying levels of comfort and success. The fact that the discussion brought forth a slew of suggestions and insights, ranging from anecdotes from personal experiences to published & proven ways of improving, made it very engaging and thought provoking. I have used some of the discussed methods in the past, like the “Sandwich Method”, which involves inserting the criticism between two layers of praise, and the “Ask, Tell, Ask Method”, which starts by asking about their perception, continues with telling them about what you see as a problem, and concluding by asking them how things can be improved. I also learned to include simple things like ending a feedback with a time-bound request such as: “Will you be able to do that by next month? “, or “What will you be able to change/accomplish by next month?”. I also liked the input about keeping conversations safe. “You” statements have a threatening connotation and can insert a harsh tone taking away autonomy from the listener. A more effective strategy is to use open and inclusive language such as: “I am concerned about your timeliness. What do you think is the right way to address it?”
Another important discussion I really learnt a lot from was about dealing with difficult feedback sessions, which may have legal repercussions. Keeping good documentation of conversations, especially documenting and summarizing the conversation in a closed loop email to the person involved, ensures that the facts are agreed upon by both parties. Inviting another colleague in the room when difficult conversations are held also is a good idea as it keeps the “he said, she said” at bay.
Phew!!! As I write this, I am realizing how much I learnt in just 45 minutes that I spent with these amazing women. I am grateful for a rich and honest conversation that motivated and empowered me to give feedback with more confidence. If I can assimilate that many pearls of wisdom by only scheduling in an hour every month for participating in SheLeads meetings, it will absolutely be worth the time investment. I’m eagerly looking forward to many more fruitful sessions in the coming months.