Feedback and fonts….

SMUS-Views-Becky

Every week, students are sent a short and friendly email related to Leadership Development on Sunday night. It is meant to provide a “focus for the week”. This month, the theme is FEEDBACK.

Getting feedback gives us information to reflect on how we do something in order to learn whether we should continue as we are, or recognize how we may want to change it up. Learning to ask for feedback, hear the information, and then decide what to do with it is a valuable process as we develop ourselves as leaders.

A recent study sited in Forbes magazine, stated that leaders who ask for feedback are substantially more effective than leaders who don’t. Now…. of course that study is looking at leaders in a professional setting but regardless, our goal is for our students to begin to get comfortable with the practice of requesting, receiving and giving feedback.

There are several people with whom I work closely whose feedback I often request. Sometimes it is as though a mirror is being put up in front of me and I am seeing what I know to be true. Other times, I appreciate the new view, the ways to improve, the possible solutions, the strategies for next time…. I value that insight.

While encouraging students and giving some tools to seek feedback, I have also asked them for it. In one of my weekly emails, a survey was included to get input on how well we were doing developing their understanding, competence and efficacy as leaders. Their feedback has been very valuable.

As a perfect illustration of the gift of feedback, I have changed the font that I use for my emails. Although, aware that fonts setting different tones for our digital work, it was not until I received valuable feedback from a student through the leadership survey that I learned how maligned Comic Sans font is. I chose Comic Sans font to represent a friendly weekly message, standing out from the many emails students receive that may fall in a more administrative or academic territory. Little did I know how much thought and quantitative data had been gathered on this topic.

“The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal. But is there a typeface that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true? Or at least nudges us in that direction? And indeed there is. It is Baskerville.”

If you are interested in learning more, please refer to the article that was included in the feedback survey. I found it fascinating.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/hear-all-ye-people-hearken-o-earth

So the article suggests Baskerville font to instil a sense of confidence in what is being written.

When we receive feedback, the recipient gets to make the choice to act, or not. In this case, I whole heartedly appreciate having my eyes opened to the suggestion that my choice in typeface was getting in the way of someone fully enjoying the message of my emails.

So…while you may be hesitating to ask for feedback, you also may wonder what small observation someone may have for you that could increase your effectiveness, productivity,  or efficiency in the area that you want to improve…possibly with very little effort on your part.

To the student who sent me that message…thank you.

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Becky Anderson
Becky Anderson is Director of the Junior School. She has also held the position of Director of Leadership Development at SMUS.

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