Allison McWilliams: Seek out feedback

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development. She writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is her fourth for the spring semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff from her professional experiences with students.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

In this four-part series, I am sharing the four key questions for any effective mentoring conversation:

  • How are you being intentional with the choices and decisions that you are making?
  • How are you setting goals and taking actions to pursue them?
  • How are you seeking out feedback from mentors and wise counselors on your choices, decisions, and goals?
  • And, how are you intentionally reflecting on what you are learning?

Today we look at the important topic of feedback.

Feedback is the gift of any effective mentoring relationship. It signals that the important work of building a relationship has been done, so that the mentee is willing and able to hear what he or she needs to hear in order to improve. And, when done correctly, it ensures the continued development of trust and rapport between mentoring partners.

The problem of course, is that few of us know how to deliver feedback appropriately, and many of our students and young adults don’t know how to seek it out. And, we know that this is something they will need to be able to do for the rest of their lives. So here are some tips on how you can help with this process.

Don’t shy away from the hard conversations. You don’t do students any favors when you try to sugar-coat it or say things like “You’re doing great.” No one in the history of time has been able to do anything with “You’re doing great.” If that’s truly how you feel, give some specific examples of their greatness and how they can repeat that behavior in the future.

Use the Immediate-Objective-Impact model. To help with these conversations, try out this model: Have the feedback conversation as close to the observed behavior as possible (immediate), focus on observed behaviors or actions (objective), and describe the impact of those behaviors or actions on self or others.

Role model asking for and listening to feedback. Finally, make sure this isn’t a one-way street. Ask for feedback from your students, and role model what that looks like for them. Demonstrate how to appropriately ask for, and how to appropriately listen to and respond to that feedback.

Next time I will wrap up with some thoughts on the reflective process which is so critical to learning and growth.