by Janet Makepeace, MSW, ACC
Does delivering difficult feedback scare you? Do you imagine feedback could be taken the wrong way, demotivating, insensitive or a waste of time? I’d like you to consider the risk of not practicing two-way input in a team environment. Failure to deliver shared results, lack of role modeling and dormant growth for team members are a few outcomes of not embracing a feedback culture. On the other end of the spectrum, how often are you providing positive feedback highlighting the great work others produce for shared results? Praising is an underutilized practice in teams that if increased could promote increased learning across team members and the power of leaning into individual strengths.
Think about a time when feedback delivered to you came too late. You were most likely surprised, would have behaved differently in a situation, felt embarrassed and lost sleep thinking about how you could have corrected or done more of the behavior if only you would have known. Don’t you wish you would have received that feedback immediately? If some of the fears listed above have been what’s holding you and your team back from embracing a feedback culture in your team, keep reading below for some easily implemented suggestions.
- Expect Feedback – Leadership teams are dynamic, and often teams develop strong relationships because of a shared deliverable. Being able to address honestly “how” projects and initiatives are moving forward is just as important as explaining “what” should be delivered. Transparency between teams requires trust, and the ability to provide feedback helps team members hold each other accountable. This openness only happens if the leader and members of the group expect to deliver and to receive candid feedback.
- Practice An Easy Process – When you have a simple way of communicating feedback, it’s easier to deliver. Try using this sequence of questions in preparation for a feedback discussion: What’s the Situation? What Outcomes are you noticing? How can you be Curious? Explain what happened in the situation based on what you observed then add what happened with the outcome. Finally, use curiosity to engage the person’s thinking about what you’ve just told them and what they need to do next. A quick formula to provide useful feedback whether it’s positive reinforcement or an area for improvement can enable people to feel more comfortable having these candid discussions with colleagues.
Here are a couple of examples:
Situation – “You stood up and began talking loud and interrupting the others.”
Outcome – “It caused the entire team to shut down, and you didn’t get the decisions you wanted from the team.”
Curiosity – “What did you notice happening in the room?” “What do you think would have helped the situation?”
Situation – “It was great when you stood up and took the marker to the whiteboard and began mapping out ideas.”
Outcome – “The group all began taking turns and building off each other’s ideas, which helped provide structure to our complex discussion.”
Curiosity – “How do you think you could continue to take the lead in other cross-functional teams?”
- Timing Is Key – The best time to provide feedback is when the topic discussed is recent. Don’t wait for tomorrow or the one on one meeting next week to provide input. The message is better received and understood if delivered soon after the behavior occurred. It’s fresh in the colleague’s memory, and they have a clear image of the situation. Timely delivery of feedback can help reinforce the need to do more or less of the behavior immediately versus waiting days or weeks to take action.
The gift of feedback doesn’t have to be scary for teams. It just needs to be expected, thoughtfully delivered and discussed promptly to be effective. A feedback culture can support the growth of the team and ultimately impact the success of shared results.
To assist your team in growing into a feedback culture, consult with Janet on how to get started.