With so many types of defined feedback today, it’s easy to get confused about how to approach a feedback session. We asked Biologist and Hyper Island alumni, Malie Lessard-Therrien to take us on a journey into the power of feedback. Here, we find how it’s changed her life, both at work and home.

Malie Lessard-Therrien (Copyright: Gustav Anestam)

Feedback at work and at home

I’m a biologist with a postgraduate diploma in Conservation Biology, and I’ve been working in academia for 8 years. The journey of my career change began when I simply got tired of working in front of a computer. The protection of the environment is something that’s very close to my heart, and I found myself in a position where I was not having the impact I wanted. I decided to work with businesses in sustainable development, but first I needed to learn the language of business. That’s where Hyper Island came into my life. I joined the Business Developer program in Stockholm and graduated in December 2020.

In the Business Developer program, we had monthly reflections and feedback sessions, and I have since used Hyper tools heavily for myself as well as in my family life.

During Way Week at Hyper Island, students are put together in a room and experience all sorts of different activities to form psychological safety and to get to know each other. My first week was very intense and we went through so many emotions, but the end result was that I felt closer to the 45 people in my class than I have with my close friends from years back. After just one week, I felt comfortable to be vulnerable with any one of those 45 people and had the impression that they truly knew me for who I am, which blew my mind completely.

Recently, I even facilitated my own family situation through feedback!


During the pandemic, my brother and his family moved from the city back to the countryside, where my parents live. My brother and his wife were working remotely full time while my parents were taking care of my baby nephew. After two weeks of cohabitation, there were already some tensions arising because people’s expectations were not being met. Harmony is important for me, so I offered to facilitate a feedback session where we could talk about what was going well and what could be improved on. It ended up going really well; my family came up with new ways of functioning and everyone was
satisfied with the results.

In my academic life, there were also tensions and conflicts of interest between supervisors and students. With the introduction of feedback workshops in our department, we learned how to communicate better with supervisors and vice versa, and connections as well as learnings were improved.

My definition of feedback and why it’s important

There are many facets to feedback. The first step is to reflect about a situation where I noticed something could be improved. I will then voice my feedback to the person of concern with good intentions. It’s important to note that it’s a suggestion—always. That’s how I view it.

In one of the workshops I attended, I remember that the lecturer placed emphasis on the fact that feedback is a gift.

The gift of feedback is something that you offer to the other person with good intentions.

For me, feedback should always be linked to good intentions, it’s a way to communicate to others what is important to me. It’s also important to keep in mind that people have different backgrounds, history, and culture and therefore, have different opinions and values. But even with people from the same family who have a lot in common, we still have a different view of what is going on. By exchanging feedback, we open a window to discover how we function and how we’re thinking, so that we can come to a clearer understanding of the other person and how to interact together to improve our relationships.

We used feedback a lot at Hyper Island and I realized what a great tool it is to use in my everyday life. I became a lot keener to hear it. By understanding that it’s only a suggestion, I am able to receive the gift of feedback and do whatever I want with it; I don’t necessarily have to adopt it. Either it’s going to serve me, or I can decide that I don’t see the relevance, thank the person for their feedback and continue to go my own way. Today, it is easier for me to receive feedback than it was before.

How to approach feedback (in person and online)

In a professional context, it’s especially helpful when you’re about to begin a project, so that you can plan feedback sessions in advance, along the way. For example, if you’re starting a new project with a new team, it might be good to plan a feedback session, say within two weeks to evaluate how things are going. This can also be applied in your personal life, for example, if you move in with a new roommate or begin a new relationship, you can apply the feedback approach somewhere down the line, so both parties are prepared to give and receive their thoughts and opinions in order to know what goes well and what can be improved.

You can approach feedback in so many ways but a good place to start is yourself.


I think that you are your own harshest critic. If you’re trying something new for example, it’s good to give yourself feedback afterwards. Consider what you liked and what you’d do differently next time. It’s interesting that some people feel more comfortable giving feedback to those they are less familiar with, and others prefer giving feedback to those they are closer to. But I believe as long as psychological safety and trust exist, you’ve made a good foundation to build upon.

As for the future, I really hope that feedback sessions happen even more. In today’s virtual world, I have found that technology can get in the way of clear communication sometimes. Working remotely means that there are a lot of body language cues we don’t necessarily pick up on due to the restricted view of other people on the screen. We’re also unable to attend team bonding activities or simply just socialize with teammates, so feedback sessions become even more important to keep the good spirit, effective work and positive relationships at work.

That said, I think it’s still possible to recreate psychological safety and a strong human connection online—by getting to know each other better, transparency and through feedback.

Valuable tools for feedback

A very good approach to feedback is to “speak from the “I”. It’s a tool from the principles of effective feedback in the Hyper Island toolbox. Feedback is an opinion based on one’s own perceptions. I don’t think we should generalize that a certain behavior is better than another because it’s a question of perception. Feedback is really about ourselves and how we prefer to interact, so we should rather think about the desired outcome of speaking to another person about their actions or behavior with good intentions.

Prior to giving feedback, I suggest to make your intentions clear by saying “I have some feedback for you, are you willing to hear it?” I think it’s a good way to start because the person who is receiving has the power to decide whether they want to hear it or not. If they accept, they are in a conscious position of receiving.

In doing so, you create value by allowing the other person to either accept the feedback or let it go. You also create an environment where people feel psychologically safe to speak up and receive.


Another valuable tool is The Feedback Stairs, formulated by Jarl Silfverberg of Swedish National Defence College. Using the stairs consisting of the bottom step of “reject” through to the top step “understand” via “defend” and “explain”, people can identify their headspace for receiving feedback.

As for additional resources to delve more into feedback, I recommend the book called The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. In it, she explores how our delivery and receiving of feedback varies according to the countries and cultures where we are from. It’s important to be aware of these differences and realize how feedback can be interpreted or misinterpreted by the way it is delivered.

There’s also a tool called FeedForward by Marshall Goldsmith, which is really useful to incorporate into an environment of collaborative teams. It involves the approach of expressing what someone is doing well as well as something that they have great potential for—very similar to the win or learn mentality.

More feedback tools

Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue

Regular, effective feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building constructive relationships and thriving teams. Openness creates trust and trust creates more openness. Feedback exercises aim to support groups to build trust and openness and for individuals to gain self-awareness and insight. Feedback exercises should always be conducted with thoughtfulness and high awareness of group dynamics. This is an exercise for groups or teams who are mature, have worked together for some time, and are familiar with giving and receiving feedback. This exercise can be facilitated face-to-face and online. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Feedback Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a book by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats. “Six Thinking Hats” and the associated idea “parallel thinking” provide a tool for groups to look at concepts from different angles. As a feedback activity, the thinking hats provide different lenses for constructive peer feedback on ideas and concepts. Members of the team present ideas or work in progress to the rest of the team. Selected people give feedback to the presenters from the perspective of one of de Bono’s thinking hats. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Feedback: I appreciate...

Regular, effective feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building constructive relationships and thriving teams. “I Appreciate…” is a good “light” feedback exercise when group members have developed some comfort and are still getting to know each other. It focuses on sharing appreciation and curiosity about each other. Can be run face-to-face or online. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Feedback Map

This is a feedback exercise to support participants to deliver feedback that is clear and specific, especially after working in multiple project teams over a longer period of time. The team maps the connections between individuals, then uses specific points of interaction to prompt feedback. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Back-turned Feedback

Regular, effective feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building constructive relationships and thriving teams. Openness creates trust and trust creates more openness. Feedback exercises aim to support groups to build trust and openness and for individuals to gain self-awareness and insight. Feedback exercises should always be led with thoughtfulness and high awareness of group dynamics. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Principles of Effective Feedback

The purpose of this exercise is for a group to discuss, define, and identify key principles of effective feedback. Participants discuss examples of effective and ineffective feedback in pairs, then the group works together to define “effective feedback”, and finally identify the principles that they will aim to work together by. – This process supports a tangible experience of giving and receiving feedback and can be run both face-to-face and online. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

Feedback: Appreciation Mingle

The Appreciation Mingle is an exercise in which every member in a group gives appreciation to every other member in the group. Often used as a closing activity, it aims to facilitate connection, generate positive energy and create a sense of team. Go to the tool in the Toolbox.

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Article updated on: 12 March 2024