Feedback is a vital part of any leader’s skill set, and leaders can be anyone. Not just giving feedback, but also receiving it is essential for personal growth and improvement. While feedback can be given and received in many contexts, we will focus on ATC feedback today. Let’s take a closer look at its value and learn how to better provide it.
The Three P’s of Feedback: Positive, Productive, and Pretty
While brainstorming the most effective ways to get my points across to you, I chose those three simple words. I will of course dive deeper into each word so as to ensure that above anything else, they are what you take away from this post.
Being positive is a key part of life. If you’re positive, people are more likely to listen to you and respond, not just through words, but through actions, in this case, through controlling. Mention their strengths first, after which you can point an aspect they can work on more. After listing strengths, avoid blame and judgment when listing deltas (things that could be worked on). Throughout the feedback, motivate the controller to go out and seek improvement – make your feedback something the recipient is excited for, not the opposite.
Productive feedback and discussion consist of specific examples, timestamps, and detail. Let’s say that your radar controller breaks separation rules. Which of the following should you say in your feedback?
1. Poor separation throughout the session
2. Separation bust with 5H-ANE @ 0730Z; 2nm, 100ft
The latter; it is specific, detailed, and includes a timestamp for the controller to reference when reviewing their replay. Specific and detailed feedback helps the controller pinpoint the respective issue and work towards a direct fix.
Feedback is best presented in a well-formatted manner. Good formatting not only helps the recipient of the feedback, but it helps you keep your thoughts and comments organized. Let’s look at a few different examples.
Hi, Taipei. I flew into KSFO and I was not impressed. Horrible service, you should be demoted immediately. I had a separation bust with @ShaneAviation and was never told to report airport in sight. ALSO… I had a terrain bust.
Feedback for the Guru of Taipei
– Separation bust with 5H-ANE @ 0730Z; 2nm, 100ft
– Never told to RAIS
– Terrain bust, met a mountain goat @ 73ft AGL
Feedback for @TaipeiGuru | KSFO Approach
– Great handoffs and intercepts
– Separation bust with 5H-ANE @ 0730Z; 2nm, 100ft. This occurred @ [location] because [specific reason]. In the future, a good way to avoid this would be [solution].
– Never told to report airport in sight (RAIS); always make sure to instruct pilots flying a visual approach to RAIS. Once they do, you may clear them and hand them off to the next frequency (Tower, in this case).
– Terrain bust, met a mountain goat @ 73ft AGL @ 0734Z directly over [location]; could have put me @ 4000ft on downwind and descended me to 3000ft on base and intercept.
The first set of feedback is demeaning, poorly formatted, and does not include specific details or time stamps. The second set is quite straight to the point. It includes detail and one timestamp but does not go further to explain possible solutions. Finally, the third set of feedback is well-detailed, formatted, and allows the controller to actually learn from their mistakes. Notice how it offers solutions to each mistake and even comments on some things the controller did well. It also avoids blame and judgment, puts strengths first, and motivates the controller to improve themselves and their controlling.
Don’t forget to let them be part of the problem-solving process. Even if you already have a specific solution in mind, hear them out, then share your proposal using some of their words or ideas. Also, give people time to understand your feedback and make sure to receive their responses. Be open-minded and take their point of view into account. Productive feedback leads to an open-minded and feedback-friendly environment. This type of environment circles back to lead to positive, productive, and pretty feedback.