As you might have seen in our list of 40 things to do before we turn 40, one of the things I’m trying is blogging about professional topics. I set my measure of success for “trying this out” as writing at least 10 blogs. I’m going to see if I can manage one per month for a period of time. Are there particular topics you’re interested in? Let me know in the comments or via email/FB message/carrier pigeon.

For context on me professionally for those of you who aren’t my colleagues, I got the opportunity to engage in leadership development in high school and college via various student organizations and then started my career as a teacher for four years in Oakland. I then transitioned into a staff role at Teach For America Bay Area as the Director of Teaching and Learning. I then transitioned to my current role of Managing Director at GO Public Schools Leadership Center.

The workstreams and areas of responsibility of my current role have changed quite a bit over time. When I joined the organization, there were just a few of us. We are now a team of nearly 20 full-time employees – in short, we provide information, help develop and organize leaders at the grassroots and grasstops levels, and do policy and political advocacy (the politics is done with our associated 501(c)(4) org).

One of My Favorite Structures for Giving Professional Feedback
noahs_ark_photosculpturFor this first topic, I’m cheating just a little bit. I was asked to write some tips for the Tip of the Day blog at New Organizing Institute a few years back, and a version of what you see below was  one of them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to share with you all!

We all know that getting and giving good feedback to our colleagues and volunteers is a critical part of running successful organizations and winning our campaigns. It’s important to offer feedback regularly in our work – sometimes daily and weekly – to our colleagues. But we all know that structures can support us to be better than we might be without them.

One of these structures that helps me prioritize giving feedback is one I’ve learned over the years from those wiser than myself — it’s called a “2×2 conversation.”

In brief, it’s a conversation in which each person shares:

  • Two things that they think they are doing well in their own work
  • Two things they want to improve upon in their own work
  • Two things their colleague is doing well in their work
  • Two things they think their colleague could improve upon in their own work

Before the conversation, we’ve found it’s best if the two people engaging send each other an email with their thoughts. Then schedule a lunch, coffee, or walk and discuss your thoughts and ideas about how the two of you can take your work together to the next level.

At this point in my career, I’ve probably had more than thirty 2×2 conversations. And regardless of the situation, I can honestly share that every one of these conversations has been helpful. I’ve gotten excellent feedback from managers, those I manage, and lateral peers, and gotten to share thoughts with others that I might not have otherwise made time to share given a busy schedule.

We have in the past done organization-wide 2×2 conversations at least once a year where teammates have these conversations with several staff with whom they work closely, and we also schedule one for 6 weeks into someone new joining the team (with that person’s manager).

There’s little that’s more important to your work than how you interact with your teammates. Those working relationships are worth the investment, and this is one tested strategy that you’ll love.

Have another tip on giving feedback? Share in the comments!