#7 🦔 The Hedgehog Method
A framework for giving feedback that actually works
Hello there and welcome to another edition of my newsletter! It’s been a little bit since the last post.
🤧 being sick sucks
I was fighting off a pretty gnarly cold and was essentially out of commission for most of the last couple weeks. The worst was about a week ago after dinner on the way home with Carole when I was shaking uncontrollably and my leg muscles were very slow to respond to my needs. I barely slept that night and kept rotating from sweating warmly to shivering frigidly.
I tried going back to work early last week, which I quickly realized was a bad idea. I had a couple calls and found myself barely functioning so after a nudge from one of my colleagues, I took the rest of the week off. I crashed on the couch, bingeing episodes of Better Call Saul and South Park, watching movies like The Two Popes and John Wick 3, and reading books. I also slept, a lot.
Usually, when I’m sick it’s primarily a physical thing; my brain keeps running and my thinking is still clear. This time, however, my thinking and emotional state were completely out of whack. It felt like this cold brought with it a mild episode of depression accompanied by a complete lack of energy. It was the worst I felt in years.
Thankfully, I’m feeling better. The fog has been lifted for most of this week. I can think more clearly now. Just in time for a trip to Mexico City this weekend with Carole (flight is in a few hours).
Sending everyone healthy, energetic vibes! May we all feel like George rolling in the grass at the park 💪
🦔 The Hedgehog Method of giving feedback
Feedback is a very relevant topic these days, with books like Radical Candor sweeping through Silicon Valley promoting the message of more direct feedback. I’ve found the trend interesting. Nobody is walking around saying, “giving feedback is dumb and useless”. For the most part, we all agree that feedback is helpful.
However, many people don’t have a good framework for giving feedback in a constructive way. In the absence of a framework, honesty can come off a bit tactless and crude, resulting in a perception of the giver of feedback being mean or inconsiderate.
As a result, people play it safe at the office and a lot of constructive feedback ends up never being shared. Why try to help someone improve if it will backfire on you?
While some feedback is difficult to hear, we’re social animals who need other people to help us calibrate our behavior. Our need for feedback is real. So I figured I’d share a framework I’ve found useful.
Last October at Abstract’s company gathering in San Diego we had a workshop on making the company culture more feedback-rich. The workshop revolved around a framework for sharing feedback called the Hedgehog Method. (I’m not sure where the name comes from to be fully honest 🤷♂️)
The Hedgehog Method
State your honest intention
(e.g. I would like to improve how we partner on…)
Share what you observed
(e.g. I noticed that when we started this project…)
Share your interpretation
(e.g. I ended up feeling… because…)
Ask for the other perspective
(e.g. how did you take that?)
(e.g. What can we do better next time?)
I’ve seen the Hedgehog Method in action twice over the last couple months (once as the giver of the feedback, once as the recipient) and personally find the structure super helpful because it’s fundamentally rooted in personal observation. The emotion and interpretation parts are critical and combine to open a two-way door to discuss the feedback and come up with a collaborative plan for moving forward together constructively. It’s not accusatory so the conversation doesn’t deteriorate into any kind of finger-pointing.
Here’s a hypothetical situation where you might need to share feedback and how the Hedgehog Method can help frame the conversation.
You’re giving a presentation to a room full of people. You prepared a lot for it and delivered the best possible plan for solving a problem. You notice a key decision-maker on their smartphone the whole meeting. Their eyes never meet yours. You’ll need this key stakeholder’s approval to move forward with your solution. The meeting ends and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You’re not sure they understood the proposal and therefore have no idea whether they agree with it.
You decide to put the Hedgehog Method in practice and schedule a meeting with the stakeholder.
You prepare in advance of the meeting and put your thoughts in writing:
Honest intention: I would like to strengthen our collaboration and communication so that this project we both care about is successful.
Observation: Earlier this week in my presentation, I noticed you were on your smartphone the entire meeting. I repeatedly tried to make eye contact with you to gauge how you’re feeling about my proposed solution but failed to do so since you were looking at your phone the whole meeting.
Interpretation: I felt very disappointed because I put a lot of work into preparing for this meeting and assumed I would have everyone’s full attention during the presentation, including yours. The story I’m telling myself is that you didn’t feel the need to pay full attention because there were more important things happening on your phone. Now I’m concerned that you might not understand the proposal. I didn’t say anything in the moment because I felt it would be better to follow-up in private.
Ask for the other perspective: How is this sitting with you? I’m curious how you felt about that presentation as well. Did I interpret your actions incorrectly?
Generate solution: How might we stay aligned in the future and keep our meetings productive and engaging? And in the short-term, how can we make sure we’re on the same page about the proposal I presented?
You might find out that the stakeholder had a family emergency that needed their full attention. You might discover that the stakeholder just blindly trusts you because they think you’re great at your job.
You never know what the result of your conversation will be, but you’ll know that the stakeholder heard you and you’ll gain at least some perspective that helps you move past the uncomfortable situation. As far as I can tell, you can’t go wrong with this method.
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