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Want good feedback? Ask for it
by Verity Dimock
on March 04, 2013
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FreeDigitalPhotos.net pat138241Use this 7-point checklist when seeking feedback.


Our cohort of fellowship students at Toronto’s School for Social Entrepreneurs recently had the opportunity to do our second round of Dragons' Den-type pitches to teams of business leaders assembled by the school. I’m just reading the feedback now. This got me thinking about feedback in general. More specifically, it got me thinking about how to optimize the experience of seeking feedback as a new social entrepreneur.


If you’ve ever watched the TV show Dragons' Den, you’ve seen feedback in its most blunt form. When the Dragons like a pitch, there’s a lot of chest thumping and competition ensues among them to make the best investment offer. On the other hand, when they take a pass, their feedback to unsuccessful contestants can be brutal. Granted, this is TV and when the feedback gets really nasty, it’s often just for ratings. And most of us social entrepreneurs won’t be on the TV version of Dragons' Den anytime soon. Nevertheless, watching the show and spending the last few months pitching my own business ideas has made me realize that there is a bit of an art to seeking feedback.


So for this blog post I gave myself the assignment of coming up with a short “feedback seeking” checklist. What follows draws from both my personal experience over the past year or so, and from advice on how to give feedback from Donald T Tosti, PhD. Tosti has written extensively on the process of giving feedback during his more than 30-year career in training and management consulting. He is also the former president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).


Understanding the different types of feedback


Tosti breaks all feedback down into two categories: encouragement, which is motivational; and advice, which is generally meant to be corrective. When you find yourself in the role of feedback giver, Tosti recommends that you decide which one is more appropriate - the motivation or the advice. But always separate the two, or you risk confusing the feedback recipient. The reason being that encouragement is often ignored when overshadowed by tough advice. For example, “Your suit is beautiful, but you need to lose 20 pounds.” Vice versa, advice is often ignored because encouragement is nicer to hear. For example, “Wow, you really are a great swimmer, but you might want to go a little faster with that great white shark following you.”


You can find Tosti’s 10-point tip sheet for feedback givers on the ISPI website. I’ve drawn from this list, combined it with my own experience and come up with a 7-point checklist for when you’re seeking feedback. Here goes:




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