The Amazonian way of giving feedback
Hey there! I’m Raika, a Senior UX and Conversation Designer at Amazon. If you’re new here, welcome! You can subscribe to my Secrets to Great UX Design newsletter for weekly insights. I share actionable ways to create great experiences, grow your career and more… for designers and non-designers.
Does this surprise you? According to a 2022 Gallup study of over 15,000 employees in the United States:
47% of employees receive feedback from their manager only a few times a year or less
Just 23% found that feedback was helpful to them in improving their performance
That’s not great…
Feedback helps us become the best versions of ourselves.
I'd argue that giving feedback is an essential soft skill for career success. So, how do we give helpful feedback?
If you struggle with giving feedback a mindset shift is a good place to start, read → Doing this makes giving feedback easier
Throughout my career I’ve found feedback is typically most helpful when:
It’s given at the right time and place
Focuses on specific behaviors and results, rather than giving general praise or criticism
Uses “I” statements, framing it as your perspective or feelings vs. making it accusatory. (i.e. “I noticed that..." instead of “You always...”)
Offers concrete examples to illustrate your points
Delivered in a constructive and supportive way
Encourages a two-way conversation by asking questions like, "How do you think we can address this?" or "What support do you need?"
During my time at Amazon, two things have stood out to me about how we give feedback:
1. Feedback is tied to our Leadership Principles
Every company has a set of values that define how employees should operate within an organization, but, oftentimes, these values are forgotten.
Amazon, on the other hand, is known for its leadership principles (LP) because they’re such a core part of our culture. From the interview process to doc reviews to performance reviews, our leadership principles are a framework we are returning to on a daily basis.
Using our leadership principles has created a common language and framework for assessing performance.
Are you demonstrating bias for action? Are you thinking big? Showing customer obsession?
Here are two examples of how feedback can be given tied to a leadership principle:
Example A — Ownership
LP: "Leaders act on behalf of the entire company. They think long term and don't sacrifice long-term value for short-term results."
Feedback: "I appreciate your dedication and hard work on the project, and it's evident that you're committed to achieving short-term goals. However, I'd like to encourage you to think more about the long-term implications of our decisions. It's essential to consider how our actions now might impact the company's future success. Let's work together to ensure that our current efforts align with our long-term goals and don't compromise the company's sustainability."
Example B — Think Big
LP: "Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results."
Feedback: "You've been doing great work, and your contributions have made a positive impact on our team. However, I believe there's an opportunity for you to 'think big' and set an even more ambitious vision. Let's not settle for the status quo; instead, let's brainstorm ways to take our projects to the next level. By setting bolder objectives and inspiring the team with a visionary direction, we can achieve results that truly stand out and make a significant difference for our organization."
2. Feedback goes both ways
At Amazon, we place a strong emphasis on continuous improvement. The fact that feedback is a part of our culture means feedback goes both ways.
When feedback goes both ways, managers can get valuable insights from their employees about what they are doing well, what they could improve, and how they can support their team members better. Employees can also benefit from receiving feedback from their managers, as it can help them to identify areas where they need to develop and to set goals for improvement.
The result? A more open and collaborative work environment. When people feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback, they are more likely to be honest and transparent with each other. This can lead to improved communication, better decision-making, and stronger relationships.
Remember, feedback is a gift. It is a way to help others improve and to grow yourself. So don't be afraid to give and ask for feedback regularly.
The more you give feedback, the more comfortable you’ll get. Read books and articles on how to give and receive feedback effectively. Because…
Feedback helps to create a positive and productive work environment.
Feedback is essential for building trust and rapport.
Feedback is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Favorite Quote and Photo of the Week
“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” — Jim Rohn, American Entrepreneur
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Until next week,
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