Impact Feedback

Business agreement deal at coffee shop

Impact feedback was first introduced to me during the Agile Facilitator Workshop with Lyssa Adkins. It’s a beautiful way to give (and receive) feedback.

The training wheels for impact feedback is the following template, which can be used for appreciative as well as critical feedback:

“When you did/said _____, the impact on me was ______.”

The beauty lies in the perspective from where the feedback is given. It’s from the “I” perspective, expressing what happened to me when someone else did or said something. By coming from the “I” perspective especially with critical feedback the feedback receiver has the freedom to choose what to do with the feedback. Whether she wants to change something is solely up to her.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But using it effectively does take practice. We are all more used to performance feedback where the feedback giver tries to influence or change the feedback receiver (intentionally or unintentionally). Interestingly, this form of feedback isn’t very constructive and doesn’t necessarily contribute to a healthy discussion. Instead, it tends to put the feedback receiver in a place of defence or justification and can lead to disengagement and frustration.

Following is a simple example showing the difference between impact and performance feedback as well as hidden performance feedback within the impact feedback template.

Impact feedback:
“When you took notes on your laptop while we were talking, the impact on me was, I felt unappreciated and not really being listened to.”

Performance feedback:
“I think next time you should stop taking notes on your laptop while we’re talking as it seemed you were distracted and not really listening to me.”

Performance feedback wrapped with the impact feedback template:
“When you took notes on your laptop while we were talking, the impact on me was, I wanted to tell you to stop because you were distracted and not listening to me.”

Once you’re comfortable with Impact feedback, you can ignore the template and just give feedback from the “I” perspective:
“You were taking notes on your laptop while we were talking. This made me feel unappreciated and not being listened to”

When I receive impact feedback, it makes me reflect on myself and my behaviours. In contrast, when receiving performance feedback, most of the time I fall into a “How-dare-you-telling-me-what-to-do” mode. Not a healthy place to be for having a conversation.