#92 - 19 Nov 2021
Giving and getting better feedback; Building confidence in decisions
Don’t Soften Feedback - Lara Hogan
Reader, I’m not proud to say that I’m actually pretty rubbish at this. I tend to very much want to soften negative feedback, which is easier for me but is in the long term worse for the team member and the team as a whole.
What’s worse, people are not uniformly affected by this. Women, Black, Asian, and Hispanic team members tend to get softer and less-actionable feedback, especially but not only from male managers, which holds back their growth - how can they grow effectively if they aren’t being told what to work on?
Hogan here tells us things we’ve talked about before, but we - at least I - need periodic reminders of. Make the feedback easier and more constructive to give by linking it to desirable outcomes for the team, make the feedback succinct and to the point, and distinguish facts from assumptions. There are also cautions here about peer feedback and potential bias.
Managing Your Own Career
The Best Leaders are Feedback Magnets — Here’s How to Become One - Shivani Berry
Relatedly, if we want to grow, we need good, actionable, feedback. In our industry, a lot of our directors are pretty hands off, which certainly has advantages but means we don’t get the guidance we’d benefit from. Berry has two broad categories of recommendations for how to get more feedback and accelerate your growth:
Learn how to accept feedback well - manage your knee-jerk reaction, think of it as an opportunity to grow, ask meaningful questions to learn more, and reflect. This will make it more comfortable for people to give you the feedback you’re looking for; and
Help people give you better feedback by asking specific questions (not “how am I doing”), asking for the more neutral “advice” rather than “feedback” (people love giving advice), and demonstrate that you act on the feedback
Building confidence in a decision - Martin Tingley with Wenjing Zheng, Simon Ejdemyr, Stephanie Lane, Michael Lindon, and Colin McFarland, Netflix Technology Blog
I honestly believe that having a research background can be a huge advantage for leaders and managers, if we engage that part of our training in making management decisions. Data collection, experimentation, understanding that we don’t know everything, accepting that an approach has been disproven - these are all pretty fundamental skills, but it’s sometimes easy to compartmentalize them, to be things we only use when studying something as part of our work but not for studying how we work.
This Netflix tech blog describes making product decisions at Netflix, using a data- and experimentation-based approach that should be extremely familiar to those of us in the sciences. For that community, we have had these skills drilled into us for years, practiced and honed them - our problem is not that we are too much still scientists but often too little, and don’t take the same rigorous professional approach to managing teams and productsthat we did in our academic career.
In tech we all love a good story about someone else’s catastrophe. This one won’t disappoint. Cascade of doom: JIT, and how a Postgres update led to a 70% failure on a critical national service.