Constructing a Feedback Vault

Imagine a database filled with all the groovy things you’ve done as you grow, learn, and progress. Each entry is a snipet of feedback from someone with their unique perspectives and outcomes. That’s the idea behind a feedback vault.

If this sounds interesting, read further.

A Little Context

Part of my job is supporting and guiding the promotion of those reporting to me. It’s the bee’s knees and I love doing it. The hard part is getting feedback from as many folks as possible to build a clear and accurate perspective of someone’s impact on the organization and areas for growth investment. Other than that, it’s an honest, clearly defined, and very transparent process.

Feedback, though. That takes time and effort when done all at once. And if enough time has passed since working with someone, the feedback becomes nigh impossible to acquire.

We can borrow some healthy patterns from software design to address this flaw. While most people use a “waterfall” approach to feedback (wait until the end, release all at once), it’s much easier and more effective to use an Agile approach. Basically, do something to help your future self on a weekly basis and make sure there’s a structure in place (the feedback vault) to support your future career goals.

Let’s apply this in a more practical manner.

Swing to the 🎶 Rhythm

I have a reminder every Monday morning to do these things:

  1. Give someone feedback.
  2. Publish a work log with what I’ve learned or achieved.
  3. Read other’s work logs and engage / comment.
  4. Update my feedback vault.

This rhythm feels like a little personal version of a Sprint retrospective. I’m mentally wrapping up the previous week and make sure that work has been fully appreciated for every drop of value.

Everything You Own in a Feedback Vault (to the left)

On to the hard part. Getting feedback. How does one do this?

To begin, follow these guidelines:

  1. Be direct and clear in what you’re looking to do with the feedback.
  2. Give a due date.
  3. Get it in writing.

My primary method is to have a conversation with folks. For example, I’m working on a promotion and could really use feedback to help me understand where I’m doing well and where I have gaps. I need this input to grow and succeed. So, I ask for it, and with that context most folks are more than happy to support. That’s the culture at Slalom, and I really love the heck out of it.

If that isn’t your cup of tea, a good secondary method is reaching out to your manager or people leader. Talk about the feedback you’re looking to gather. Their job is to solve problems that make you better, so leverage that. Maybe they know someone who would be great for getting you feedback and can make a warm introduction. Maybe they can set better context with someone in another department or at a client. Lots of possibilities here.

And finally, my tertiary method is to see if the company has a feedback process to leverage. For example, at Slalom we use Workday as one method to capture feedback. Within Workday, there is a feature to request feedback from a peer and a number of templates to select based on the type of feedback you need. Most companies have some sort of mechanism like this. If you go this route, I’d suggest giving someone a heads up first, such as after morning stand up or while closing out a Sprint / user story.

People that give you high quality and useful feedback become your more trusted circle of advisors.

Store what you get back and use it to guide you.

Show Up to the Party

Compare the feedback you get to any of the characteristics or core values needed for career advancement. See where there’s overlap and where you are meeting or exceeding expectations. Where you see no overlap, that’s a good indication on growth areas where more investment is needed. Actively find people to give you clear and actionable feedback in those gap areas. Over time, you’ll build a really well rounded set of data points that provide the story of you as told by the voices of everyone else.

And that’s pretty much it.

Keep iterating on yourself and adding to your feedback vault every week. Like so many drops of water, you will eventually find yourself in an ocean of feedback highlighting all of the amazing growth you’ve experienced over time!