What We’re Reading: December 2018

by | Dec 17, 2018 | Books, Strategies and Tips, Communication

The Sanger team’s book club recently completed Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone. Our team conducts a quarterly 360-degree evaluation for every team member, so we were curious to discover new mechanisms of delivering and receiving formal and informal feedback.

Here are our top takeaways and experiments:

    1. Ask for specific types of feedback.
      Heen and Stone consistently point out three distinct types of feedback in the book: appreciation (to acknowledge or thank), coaching (to help the feedback receiver improve capability), and evaluation (to rate or rank against a set of standards). The book states we need all three to meet human needs, but understanding the different types and being clear about what type would be most helpful to you is crucial to increasing satisfaction and clarity in the areas you desire. The Sanger Team had a lengthy discussion about the different types of feedback and how we could implement them into our quarterly 360 feedback. One suggestion was rather than delivering random feedback via an online form, we could be more intentional about giving specific types of feedback in-person based on the request of the individual receiving the feedback. We’ll be running an experiment in January 2019 to give 360 feedback in person.
    2. Invite others in.
      “Letting someone far enough into your life to help you transforms the relationship,” writes Heen and Stone. The authors talk about the “emotional acre” that everyone is given at birth and point out that if we choose to let others only see our presentable, manicured garden we are choosing to close ourselves off. By letting others see past the well-kept garden into the junkyard, we show vulnerability and become more confident showing that we are willing to ask for help. In turn, others feel appreciated and respected.

      Silke Janz, who offers one-on-one coaching at Sanger, will encourage her students to let others far enough into their life, letting them see their whole “emotional acre,” including the fears, shame, insecurities that they have.
    3. Cultivate a growth mindset.
      This key point is all about building up our identity so that it is robust and able to take on and learn from feedback as opposed to brittle and defensive. The book shares practical suggestions for cultivating a growth mindset including:

        1. Sort for coaching: hear coaching as such and search for coaching in evaluation.
        2. When evaluated, separate judgment from assessment and consequences.
        3. Give yourself a “second score” for how well you think you handled the first evaluation, be it good or bad.


  1. Be mindful of your own feedback footprint.
    According to Heen and Stone, our feedback footprint is our set of reactive behaviors in response to criticism. For example, blaming others, crying, apologizing, being silent, chattering, and internally panicking are all acceptance and rejection behaviors to criticism. No matter what your reactions are, being aware of them is extremely helpful. When you can recognize your usual reaction you can name it at the moment and claim power over it, which can help you remain calm and focus on what’s actually being said.

    For Sanger’s Evan Marie Allison, this suggestion really resonated with her. In future conversations, she wants to intentionally slow down, acknowledge the feedback, and take a little more time to respond after she’s had time to digest it.
  2. Separate the strands: feeling/story/feedback.
    “Separating the strands” is important to understanding the distortions that creep into your interpretation of the feedback, according to the authors. This can be done during the conversation or upon reflection afterward. You can separate your emotions from the actual feedback by asking yourself three questions:

      1. Feelings: What do I feel?
      2. Story: What’s the story I’m telling (and inside that story, what’s the threat?)
      3. Feedback: What’s the actual feedback?

Often times we have emotional reactions to feedback, so this helps us untangle our strands of emotion so we can keep the feedback in perspective.

We highly recommend Thanks for the Feedback to students and teams alike! It’s not only beneficial for your professional life, but can also help you navigate difficult personal relationships. Next, our team will be reading Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. Read along with us or check back for our thoughts!
Thanks for the Feedback
by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen