Not unlike many of my colleagues, I find myself lately knee deep in projects – one just beginning, a few making serious progress, and a couple in the finishing stages. And so the cycle goes. Most of my work I wrap up nicely myself, present to an audience or publish online and move on. Some, though, is of greater importance, creating a greater impact, and having the potential of causing the greatest change (good or bad). For these, I seek feedback from peers whom I have built a relationship with based on respect and integrity. These peers are my coaches. They walk me through decisions. They listen. They remind. They are what I hope I am for others. I am always thankful to have peers like these because they stop everything and help me – I hope to be gracious enough to thank them for their time. Usually, though, the times are stressful and I have my game face on. I should thank them more.
Recently, I received a large amount of descriptive feedback from two of my peers whom I respect greatly. I poured myself into two separate projects within a week or two window and knew that I wanted my final draft of each to be of the highest quality. Therefore, I sought feedback and what I received (in addition to the feedback) is truly what impacted me. Both peers wrote lengthy notes on each detail of my work, paying close attention to the message, clarity of content, and final product. What surprised me was that my peers also included a note of caution, a smiling emoji (from one) and an air of nervousness that the feedback may not have been well-received. Of course I wouldn’t be mad at the comments they spent so much time sharing with me. I know this was an opportunity to do the right thing – to take the high road because feedback builds character.
ASCD recently published this infographic: 7 Things to Remember About Feedback. What is missing? The person on the receiving end. The work has been described, audited, edited, reviewed, then handed back. Now what? It can be very upsetting to receive extensive feedback on something you poured yourself into and something that, 2 days ago, made you very proud. Surely I am not the only one. Let’s help the children and adults we work with recognize it is difficult to keep your chin up, but we are proud of them for doing so. Even if there is no evaluation or advice in the words we share, description is description and hearing another’s perspective may not be what you intended.
A note to my peers: I know what I am doing when I ask for feedback. I know my work is not perfect – even saturated with error sometimes, but I am asking for feedback. I do appreciate the cautionary notes that accompany the feedback. It means you care about me as a person – as the person that labored for hours or even days on the project and thought what I offered to you was my best work. Here’s what I don’t know. It isn’t my best work. It is my best work yet. Yet is a powerful word. It means my work will get better. How awesome is that? I cannot produce my best work without you, my feedback-giving peers. I can only give my best work yet. My work is better and I am better because of feedback. And, feedback builds character.