Giving and receiving feedback is part of many workplace roles, yet the prospect can arouse apprehension and uncertainty.
Personally, I like feedback which is straight to the point, is given in a helpful tone and points out what could be done differently. It also helps if the other person listens well. I appreciate it if the feedback giver first asks me how I assess the situation.
So what opportunities are there for feedback in the relatively safe and supportive context of an Action Learning Set?
For starters, it’s a good idea to flag up early on that feedback is a feature of working in the Set. Agree as part of the group contract that participants, the facilitator included, are willing to give and receive feedback – and any preferences about delivery. A discussion about different models and how they can be adapted to the Set will enable Set members to ‘own’ the process. Simple models are SBI (Situation, Behaviour, Impact) or AID (Action, Impact, Desired Outcome).
There are at least two points in the Set when I’ve found that feedback is valuable. Firstly, so that Set members can give the Presenter feedback appropriate to their issue, for example:
“You were talking about the difficulty you’d had getting your points across in a meeting – I’d like to say how clearly you explained your issue to us just now in the Set. I feel I understood the background and the key points very well.”
Note that the use of ‘I’ language helps to make the feedback personal and relevant.
If you use rounds in the Set, giving feedback can be part of the round.
Secondly, participants may use the Process discussion to give and receive feedback on what happens in the Set; this helps everyone to develop their skills and awareness. So, for example, the facilitator may ask for feedback on the usefulness of an intervention, the Presenter on the clarity of description of the issue and Set members on their interactions with each other. The facilitator may model this by, for example, asking the Presenter to offer feedback to the whole Set on the usefulness and direction of the questions.