Presentation: Play With Feedback Without Getting Burned



5:25pm - 6:15pm


Key Takeaways

  • Learn a basic framework about giving feedback
  • See examples of giving feedback between managers, tech leads and developers
  • Recognize the impact of your feedback and learn how to adjust to increase impact


Individuals cannot grow and companies cannot thrive when hard truths are hidden. Success is only possible when we engage tough problems and realities rather than avoid them. But difficult conversations are daunting and the stakes are often high. If not heard, those who generously give feedback may later withhold important information and hide problems from us. If they feel attacked, those who receive our feedback may carry resentment and refuse to help us in the future.

In just 50 minutes you will learn an effective, tested method for giving and receiving tough feedback. You will learn stealthy non-verbal gestures that win rapport. You will learn the top 5 mistakes people make when delivering feedback. You will have the chance to practice and hone your new skills in an environment where it is safe to fail. Most importantly, you will take home a skill that will serve you throughout both professional and personal life.


QCon: What is your role today?

Angella: I am currently doing leadership coaching and I work with non profits and for profit corporations around soft skills, diversity and inclusion. In the past I have worked in tech; I was a web developer for many years. I also worked at startups.

Kai: I also came from tech originally, started out as an engineer and moved up into management. I learned a lot about soft skills and working with people and now I do coaching. About half of my time doing leadership development and the other half of the time I do product management and a bit of development as well.

QCon: What makes feedback so important?

Kai: One of the most essential skills for managing a team, or even working within a team, is being able to bring the things that are underlying what’s happening to the surface. I think one of the real challenges is creating a space where people feel free to let you know when things are going badly. You want them to be able to not worry about how you might respond or how they might be judged for speaking up. Being able to give and receive effective feedback really clears up those channels and allows information to flow more freely, which allows everyone to be working with the real issues.

Feedback is also essential to developing as an individual. Being able to receive critical feedback and understand how that can help you increase your own value and what you can do for the team is crucial. When you are in a leadership role, you also have to be able to provide that to your team in a way that continues to open those channels and allows them the opportunity to improve in a way that doesn’t have them feel shut down but instead feel inspired by critical feedback.

Angella: There is the setup of how to start, how to approach somebody, there are things like timing, your intent behind what you are hoping to get out of this conversation. There is a term "intent versus impact": how we can have a good intent but the impact isn’t necessarily what we had intended. It’s one of those things that I really wish somebody had told me when I was trying to give good feedback to developers - or what I thought was good feedback - and then they took it completely different. Being able to separate those two was really helpful for me to know. 

The other thing we will talk about is the impact of body language. Do you know that you are looking at your phone as you are trying to give feedback? Are you distracted? Are you slouching?  Are your arms crossed? These are some of the key things that we are not aware of that we do. It’s one of the big things with leaders that I am constantly checking in with them about. What are you inadvertently communicating when you are giving feedback?

Kai:  When building rapport, it is really helpful to recognize body language in the person who is receiving what you are having to say. For example, when your impact is not what you intend, a lot of times you will see that in their body language. You will see how they are retreating or retracting or constricting in some way. If you can kind of "meet them where they are", there’s a way that you can start to lead them to open as well. And actually create a more receptive space just working with body language.

QCon: Can you give some examples of the things that you will talk about at QCon SF?

Angella: Again, we’ll be giving a framework for providing feedback. As we go through the framework we’ll talk about the details of each section. In one section, for example, we’ll talk about the importance of set and setting and how to recognize when they are good for the kind of feedback you want to give. We’ll also be talking about some advanced topics like cultural awareness and body language. A lot of my clients don’t realize that the reaction they’re seeing from someone of a different culture may not mean what they think it does.

QCon: Is this a talk for managers or tech leaders? Or for developers?

Angella: It’s a talk that is valuable for all of them! The framework that we present works in all scenarios. The examples that we give help to connect to people. As a developer when you are giving feedback to a peer, it’s the same structure, different words. Managers to subordinates could be a little bit more challenging because then you are dealing with a behavior that they are doing. You are trying to coach them on how they are functioning. It could be a little touchier, but the framework is essentially the same.

QCon: What will be the actionable that architects and senior development leads will walk away from your talk with?

Kai: First and foremost, we want to give them at least a basic structure, a basic framework to go about giving feedback and I think that that can be extremely helpful. We will talk about what can happen when the message coming from their body language doesn’t match the words they are using. We will also have them recognize when the impact of what they are saying is different than what they intend, that the response might not be about you, and that there’s something they can do to make adjustments for that in the moment. Just having those fundamental understandings can really change effectiveness.

QCon: What do you feel is the most disruptive tech in IT right now?

Kai: Well, it’s interesting because my first thought was IT itself. IT, at least traditionally what has been described as IT, is going away. The idea of whole separate teams that build, support and maintain platforms is being replaced by DevOps and Cloud computing. Of course as someone who always enjoyed the software side more, I love it. Now with a click I can throw up a box that someone else maintains and I can get right to the business of creating.

Angella: I think it’s diversity. I have the lens of diversity and inclusion that I use for reading up on tech firms and it’s really changing things. Much of Silicone Valley started with mostly men, mostly white, as far as the ones starting the companies. If you start shifting that, that’s going to really change a lot of how things are made. So in my lens, diversity is what I see.

Speaker: Kai Mantsch

Co-founder @DenkaiPeopleworks

After a long career in tech Kai Mantsch now mixes his time between building great products and developing great people: Leadership Development Coaching and Product Management. Kai is a certified Integral Coach® through New Ventures West and a coach for the Aletheia School, mixing ancient spiritual traditions with modern psychology and neuroscience for optimized personal development.

Find Kai Mantsch at

Speaker: Angella Okawa

Psychotherapist & Integral Coach with a Design/Tech Background

Angella Okawa, MA, LMFT helps businesses build diverse and innovative cultures, and increases the capacity of leaders and teams to improve their EQ and flexibility. She uses her backgrounds in design (IDEO), tech and psychology to build unique programs around client needs. Angella has a coaching and consulting practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Find Angella Okawa at



Monday Nov 7

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Wednesday Nov 9

Conference for Professional Software Developers