The art of giving and receiving feedback

For someone who is so incredibly organised and can’t bear to be a moment late for anything, it surprises me every month that despite all the thinking I devote to my Lincolnite article, I still end up putting fingers to keyboard and writing it the night before publication.

In fairness, this has been an incredibly busy month. We held two Open Days, welcoming nearly 500 people through the door to find out about the opportunities available for young people at Lincoln UTC. I have been in countless meetings with businesses, architects, builders, designers and fitters. The list is endless. Every meeting provides another piece of the jigsaw that develops the final picture of our UTC. As each piece slots into place, the excitement builds, as the potential of the UTC becomes a reality.

My inspiration for this month’s article came at the start of our Open Day last Saturday. I started my morning at the University of Lincoln, setting up stands and displays, and then popped up to the BBC Radio Lincolnshire studios to meet Rosie and share the UTC’s plans with her listeners. On the Friday I had been contacted for pre-recording, whereby they interview me over the telephone and use the clips to play on air before interviewing me live.

Early on the Saturday morning I was driving along, listening to Rosie’s Breakfast Show, and suddenly I heard myself speaking. I don’t know if you have ever actually heard your own voice but I was quite shocked. I sounded so boring! Given all my enthusiasm and passion for my work, I was surprised that it didn’t seem to come across on air.

I talked about this experience when I spoke to students and parents throughout the day on Saturday. I am committed not only to developing the academic and technical potential of our students, but equally to their holistic development. A CV filled with qualifications might secure an interview, but it is the person who successfully secures the job opportunity.

I have given a great deal of thought to how we develop ourselves and many questions spring to mind. How do we know what we look like? The person we see in the mirror isn’t quite the person others see, so how can we help our students and staff see and appreciate themselves through the eyes of others? The voice I hear in my head isn’t the voice others hear. I cannot see the way I deliver a presentation to an audience, nor appreciate my gestures, facial expressions and phrases. How do I know what I look and sound like and how I come across to others? If we are to develop our students to be rounded, confident and articulate young people, how can I ensure that we help them to truly see themselves in all their glory and identify the aspects that need a little refinement?

This can be why people chose to video themselves. As a trainee teacher I recall being recorded on a microteaching experience, realising how frequently I said “Okay”! Athletes utilise the video recording for technique so that they can drill down to the finer details and hone their performances, not only to identify the weaknesses but also to look for the strengths that support the overall results.

Whilst this method can be very effective, I value the feedback of others. In the swimming pool, my husband is the video camera, helping me to refine my front crawl technique as I train for the forthcoming World Triathlon in Hyde Park this summer. His feedback is balanced and supportive, critical and at the same time encouraging. His honesty enables me to identify aspects to improve and, with time and effort, I hope to be able to take off a few seconds from my swim time over the next few months.

The art of giving effective feedback is vital for all, but particularly for our staff and students. The giving and receiving of feedback will be a key skill that we must all understand, articulate, practice and refine. Acting with honesty and integrity, we will be able to provide support and challenge as we each seek to know ourselves better, clarify our ambitions and strive to achieve them. Self-knowledge and perpetual reflection is the best way to achieve dreams.

So, the next time I go on the radio, lead a meeting, call out for my dogs or make a demand of my long-suffering husband I will think about not just what I’ve said but how it has been heard!