Leading Individual Feedback Sessions



This guide is aimed at team leads, but that’s not to say that it’s not helpful for everyone to think about doing real-time feedback. It’s how we get better!

Why Do Real-Time Feedback?

Feedback in general is a critical part of learning. Leading without getting feedback would be like doing problem sets and exams without getting a grade, written feedback, or an answer key later. Sure you might learn a little just by trying, but you’d learn a whole lot more if you had a sense of what you were doing well and what could be better. That’s what feedback is!

Feedback forms are great, but I find that real-time feedback sessions are invaluable for learning about how your members are feeling and generating ideas for how to do things better. I think that the more you can build conversations with your members, the better.

In my experience, if you form good working relationships with your members, they will actually by quite candid with you even if there’s no anonymous feedback form. Conversations like feedback sessions also help build this relationship by showing that you care about making their experience better.

How to Lead a Feedback Session

The first rule for this is that every team is different, and you know your team best. Therefore, you should absolutely adapt and ignore this advice as appropriate for your team. That said, here are some ideas for leading a feedback session that have been useful for me.

Conversation Outline

  • Open by thanking them for the work they’ve done or expressing your appreciation for their contributions. This kind of arranged, individual feedback conversation is probably new and strange for them, so it’s helpful for you to open and set the example and tone. Try and make your comments as specific to the individual as possible, and model the kind of feedback you hope they give you. (Only model the positive though, because critiques at the start can be weird.)

  • Start narrow and concrete

    • What have you been doing well as a team lead?

    • What could you improve upon?

  • Broaden slightly to the team

    • How do they feel about progress so far?

    • What is the team environment like? Collaborative? Fun? Stressful? Annoying?

    • What do they like about the team? What do they wish were different?

  • Broaden to the club

    • What about the club do they want to continue? What would they change?

    • How is the club environment?

    • What are the club officers doing well?

    • What could the club officers to better?

  • Reflect on themselves. This is out of order in the progression, but it’s often the hardest to talk about.

    • What are they proud of?

    • What would they like to target for improvement? How might you be able to help them with that?

  • Wrap up

    • Do they want to continue next quarter?

    • Anything else?

After Getting Feedback

During Conversation

Be careful about pushing back, even on feedback you disagree with. It’s fine to tell the member you disagree, but you should make clear that you are still taking their opinions into account.

You should also probably take notes on what your members say. You don’t just want to remember general themes, you want to remember the specific suggestions your members make so that you can act on them intentionally.

After Conversation

Short Term

After you’ve gotten feedback from your members, take some time to reflect on what they said. Discuss what you learned with other team leads and club officers, and identify action items you want to work on.

Long Term

Turn the feedback into changes and action. Sometimes these will be super simple changes, for example one of the suggestions I got once was to have 3 1-hour sessions a week instead of 1 3-hour session. I implemented that change a few days after the call.

Other times, you’ll get feedback that takes longer to act on. For example, I have heard that the club could benefit from more cross-team social interactions. That’s what drove work on having more social events in the following quarters.

Closing Thoughts

Throughout this process, keep the club officers and other team leads in the loop about how things are going. The club officers in particular are happy to help!

Licensing and Attribution

Copyright © 2019 Christopher Skalnik


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This work was initially created for Stanford Code the Change.