One thing I wanted to a better job at as I took on a new role last year is to be more deliberate in giving feedback. As a German, I tend to fall on the side of only focusing on negative, or constructive feedback. I tend to focus on pointing out what I think should be improved, or what isn’t conclusive. This is quite ingrained in the German work culture.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate positive feedback more and more. Getting affirmation or appreciation shows us that we’re doing something right. That we should keep going down the path we’re on.

Constructive feedback tells us where we should course-correct. Together they give us a compass for our own personal and professional development.

In the daily shuffle of work, feedback used to fall off my radar. It still does from time to time. So I was looking for a means to be more deliberate about feedback. And a means that helps me track and plan the feedback I distribute.

Meet the feedback log. It’s not a complicated thing. It’s a text file. It has two sections:

  • History: a timeline of feedback I’ve given, to whom and when.
  • Future log: a list of feedback I intend to give at the next occasion, indexed by person.

It could like this:

  • 2019-07-25, Virginia: The presentation you gave last week was great I thought. The subject matter was well researched and presented. The conclusion you got to made sense to me. You built consensus with your team on the final decision and gathered input in the presentation, which helps us and you make better decisions.
  • 2019-07-23, Max: Last Tuesday you posted a comment in Slack that could be taken the wrong way by some folks. It used language that could make some folks feel excluded. For the future, I’d suggest that you avoid this particular language.

For the future log, I either leave out the date or include the date of our next conversation.

Why is this useful? It helps me keep track of feedback when I observe a situation worthy of it. I can go back to my future log before every 1:1 and see if there’s something I should bring up.

The timeline helps me be more balanced in my feedback. I can ensure that I give both affirmative and constructive feedback in equal measure.

Lastly, it serves as a record of all feedback I’ve given. This can be useful to go back to in the future to see the progression over time for an individual. Should there be a dispute over what kind of feedback I’ve given in the past, I can go back to the list too to verify.

It’s a little thing but sticking to it with some discipline has helped me build up a better habit of giving feedback.

Inspiration for this log came from the Decision Log in Oren Ellenbogen’s book “Leading Snowflakes.”