Running a Speedback session

Recently, I facilitated my first “Speedback Session” for the Codurance leadership team. With a culture of continuous improvement and learning, the team wanted to explore ways of giving each other positive and constructive feedback in a regular and supportive way - and had heard of Speedback so we decided to research more about this approach and had our first session last week.

Why Give Feedback?

Sharing feedback with colleagues is one of the most fundamental aspects of creating solid, trusting team relationships. In fact a Harvard Business Review survey found that 72% of respondents felt their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.

Receiving feedback makes people feel empowered to contribute to their organisation’s success; it can help employees feel more valued and give a sense that their work is making a difference. Good or bad - getting feedback on a regular basis helps to reinforce that there is a point to what they are doing and that their career is valued.

Giving feedback is also an opportunity to get things out in the open so that issues can be resolved and solutions found to improve ways of working. Dealing with issues early avoids small things becoming bigger issues to deal with later on.

How to give feedback?

There are some definite rules when it comes to giving good feedback. Firstly do it on a regular basis; the more often feedback is shared, the more normalised the process becomes and reduces anxiety for the giver and receiver. It also improves the skills of the person giving feedback.

Secondly, do your homework before giving feedback; explain the facts to take any emotion out of the conversation and use examples to provide context. If you haven’t had time to prepare, reschedule to another time.

Next think about where you deliver feedback - giving kudos in a public channel is great to create a culture of positivity and team building (here at Codurance we share success via our #kudos Slack channel for example). However be careful where you give an individual constructive feedback - it might cause less tension by doing this in private to avoid the person feeling humiliated or creating tension amongst the team. However it very much depends on the issue - sometimes discussing an issue with the whole team can help to get different perspectives and find resolutions quicker as long as everyone takes responsibility and helps to find solutions together.

Lastly remember to follow the TASK Model when giving feedback - make it Timely, Actionable, Specific and Kind.

So what is Speedback?

Speed-dating is great for learning information quickly about someone. Feedback is great for identifying personal strengths and weaknesses - bring these 2 ideas together and you have Speedback! The idea of Speedback is to provide a mechanism for giving and receiving feedback in a quick format, thus allowing it to happen more frequently, without too much preparation and therefore driving greater trust and improvement to help progress personal skills and careers of employees and leadership teams.

The term was claimed to have been coined by several experts on the subject including Neuroscientist David Rock and Google’s VP People Development Karen May amongst others. Either way its a great term for combining speedy feedback !

How to run a Speedback

Preparation

A Speedback session can be held in person or remotely - due to Covid-19 restrictions our entire team is working remotely so we ran the session over Zoom meeting.

To prepare the Speedback session, about 2 weeks prior to the session date I asked everyone in the leadership team to do some homework and write down 2 positive and 1 constructive piece of feedback for each of the other people in the team. The feedback should be fairly short and concise - it is speedy feedback after all. They must not share their feedback at all with anyone prior to the session.

I also prepared by creating a document with a table that had ‘Zoom Room Numbers’ across and ‘Rounds’ down. Each Round would have a different pair put into each room; we had 7 people taking part which meant every round had 3 pairs and there was always an extra person not paired up so this 7th person sat with me in the main Zoom Room (this will always be the case with an odd number of participants).

I created the table of pairs manually but you could use an online Round Robin generator tool if you find this helps or have a large group.

Running the session

On the day of the session, we all entered the Zoom meeting and I then split the pairs in to separate breakout rooms. Zoom allows you to put people in breakout rooms manually or there is an autofill feature; I manually put each pair into a room as per my pre-prepared table.

I then opened the breakout rooms and set a timer for 2 minutes. During these 2 minutes, the first person in the pair gave their feedback to the other person (remembering the TASK Model!) After 2 minutes I announced to the rooms that they needed to swap roles. After a further 2 minutes of feedback giving, I closed the breakout rooms and everyone came back to the main meeting room.

I repeated this process until everyone had been in a breakout room with every other person taking part. We then had a discussion about how people found it and if we wanted to do it again. The whole process took about 1 hour.

Outcomes

The overriding feedback (no pun intended!) from the team was that the Speedback session was really valuable. They liked the fact that it was short and quick which meant it was easier to prepare and made them focus. The 2 minute time limit was sometimes a struggle to stick to but they all came away with good actions to implement or for further discussion.

We are now looking at how we can use Speedback more widely in our organisation and projects.

Giving feedback that is short and concise means it is likely to be done more often which should lead to greater expertise at the craft and therefore improved outcomes for our people and projects - a win, win all round.

Why not try Speedback yourself?

Resources

Here are some useful resources to find out more:

T-three - why giving feedback is important https://www.t-three.com/soak/insights/why-feedback-is-important

Impraise - how to ask for feedback http://help.impraise.com/en/articles/3049852-how-to-ask-for-feedback

Mindtools - how to give effective feedback https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_98.htm

Josh Richardson on Speedback format: https://medium.com/@joshdesign/speedback-de-stigmatise-feedback-with-speed-dating-principles-4708d493fb63

Karen May of Google on giving feedback: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/business/karen-may-of-google-on-conquering-fears-of-giving-feedback.html

David Rock’s SCARF model and how it affects motivation and team building https://youtu.be/qMejNf0dL2g

Aaron Lamer, Forget Feedback, Try Speedback https://youtu.be/OzqFQExA_7c

ETH Zurich, Giving Constructive Feedback https://youtu.be/9OGmgMuwChc

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