Framework for tough and honest feedback. If you’re not getting coaching you’re either perfect or doing it wrong

Last week the Earlybird team hid up in the Bavarian mountains to talk about… everything. Our future fund strategy, how we can systematically provide better support to our companies, how we work together as a team, etc.  We really worked very hard on the last point. As my partner Jason said “We’re a small team flying to the moon” – we rely heavily on each other and we need to be a highly effective team. Like a good sports team you have to stay in training. You can’t let it slip. So we teamed up with the amazing David Surrenda (who has coached senior folks at Apple, ebay, Sun Microsystems, etc – I highly recommend him) to help structure our team discussion. I think you need an external person to help you do that effectively.

I want to share one of the most amazing moments. It was when we took the time (several hours) to give each partner detailed feedback on what we think each person is doing well and not so well. It was my favourite part, we will do this much more often now.

David gave us the following framework to use when giving each other feedback:

As your partner and ally, and given my limited perspective – I think you could be a more effective partner if you…

Do less of:                                __________________________________

Do more of:                             __________________________________

Start doing:                             __________________________________

I admire you because of:     __________________________________

It’s obvious why the structure works so well. Without going into more detail – you should do this with your team often. And if you’re not getting coaching every now and then – start right now. You’re either perfect or doing it wrong.

The EB team giving each other feedback.

The EB team giving each other feedback.


2 Comments on “Framework for tough and honest feedback. If you’re not getting coaching you’re either perfect or doing it wrong”

  1. I did a training on giving hard feedback to employees a couple of days ago. My previous approach of, this is what you’re doing wrong and this is what you should be doing instead was, let’s say, sometimes a little too direct for some people.

    The approach they suggested during the training was mostly focused around getting people to talk about the issue to find the real root cause and then ask them to come back with their own suggestion of how to do it better next time. The idea being that people learn better from an incident if they come up with the solution themselves instead of somebody telling them.

    I feel it’s worth a try but might be a bit too slow for certain situations. Especially when shit is on fire, as it happens to be in startups every now and then, the direct approach is probably still the weapon of choice.

    • berlinvc says:

      Yeah I agree. I think you need to explain to the team why in some situations there may not be room for discussion, while in others there are.


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