It’s peer review season! Feedback is a gift (most of the time). Effective feedback helps us identify areas to grow in and ways to better work together.
This blog goes over some things I’ve found helpful in giving effective feedback.
While being general points your teammate in the right direction, being specific helps them know exactly what to work on or continue doing.
OK Your code reviews are great.
BETTER Your code reviews are great because you share best practices, suggest simpler solutions, and ask questions about edge cases.
OK You should understand how things work at a high level.
BETTER You should prioritize trying to understand how different pieces of a system come together. Understanding things at a high level is important for building and problem solving. Using existing code is a great guide for implementing similar features, but sometimes it's easy to copy and paste without understanding how it works.
Similar to being specific, giving examples points them to concrete evidence of the feedback in question.
GOOD Your code reviews are great because you share best practices, suggest simpler solutions, and ask questions about edge cases.
BETTER <continuation to above> For example, in this PR[insert link], you shared context on our team's approach to error handling. This gave me the right level of context and pointed me in the right direction to explore this part of the codebase and add the appropriate error handling.
GOOD You should prioritize trying to understand how different pieces of a system come together. Understanding things at a high level is important for building and problem solving. Using existing code is a great guide for implementing similar features, but sometimes it's easy to copy and paste without understanding how it works.
BETTER <continuation to above> As an example, you should strive to not only be able to run commands but have a deeper understanding of the process and tools involved in running the commands. Deeper knowledge of how things work under the hood comes in handy for things like debugging.
Your teammate is receiving this feedback. Be kind. Use compassion and care when giving feedback. 💝
It can sometimes be uncomfortable giving constructive feedback. Being honest about constructive feedback is an opportunity for you to help them learn more about what they can work on. You’ll help them in their process of creating actionable steps for growth.
Giving feedback is usually part of the process of collaborating with others. This is also an opportunity for you to practice delivering feedback.
If you’re identifying an area of improvement, let them know that you are available to support.
OK You should improve on naming variables.
BETTER I think you can work on using clear variable names. Variable names that reflect the behavior of the function or value helps with readability. Someone should be able to read the variable name and not need to go into the function to understand what it does. Naming is tough for me too. One thing I try to do is think about the purpose of the function or value. We can talk more about this next time we pair!
OK You should speak up more in meetings.
BETTER You're doing well so far on sharing knowledge with the team. The presentation on the new testing framework was great. I'm looking forward to seeing you progress and contribute more in future meetings (we can discuss potential topics together)!
Ever had the once a year performance review? It usually comes with a feeling of dread and trying to remember what you did the past year. You twiddle your thumbs and talk about some now irrelevant feedback on that thing you did 9 months ago. You think to yourself, this feedback would’ve been better served if it was discussed sooner.
Instead of talking about feedback once a year or only during peer reviews, it’s helpful to have more frequent conversations about feedback. It’s like doing retros at the end of a sprint, you talk about how to improve things while the events are still fresh and relevant. Find time to occasionally check-in about feedback. Ideally, nothing in a peer review should be a surprise.
You don’t have to throw darts in the dark. Prior to a peer review, ask your teammate if there’s any specific area they’re working on and would want your support in. Pay attention to this area and give them feedback on this during check-ins and when peer review season rolls around. Your feedback is guaranteed to be relevant.
It would be remiss to not also talk about effectively receiving feedback in this blog. Here are some things I’ve found helpful in graciously receiving feedback.