Getting your feedback message across, without being negative, is the key!
Feedback is VERY important when running a team. Regular feedback lets team members know how their work is being perceived and whether they are on the right track.
But the very idea of receiving feedback can be upsetting to some, as their past experiences might equate ‘feedback’ with ‘ripping a person to shreds’. It can make people defensive and nervous, so it’s important to handle it carefully.
Team members have to hear it for feedback to work
In order to be effective, feedback must first be heard. This might sound silly, but badly delivered feedback is often misconstrued in its meaning or intent and ends up being of little use to the recipients.
What is badly delivered feedback?
Where only negative feedback is provided, without the inclusion of anything positive. Team members are less likely to listen to it, or act on it, if it’s totally negative.
- Where feedback is judgemental. Is the feedback delivered in ways where the receiver feels ‘unsafe’, as if it is intended to make them look incompetent or as a personal judgment?
- Where the leader is not clear and forthright. If the feedback is purposely vague out of fear of confrontation or a poor reaction, it can have a negative impact overall.
- When the feedback is not specific. This is similar to the previous point in that confusion is the result for the team, instead of useful information that they can take on board.
- Where feedback is not productive. If the feedback only serves to take people down and doesn’t provide a platform for growth and confidence building, it’s not good feedback.
Qualities you need to give feedback effectively
As a leader, your feedback will be more readily taken on board if you have these qualities: authority, credibility and trustworthiness.
If you have the authority to provide the feedback, in that you are the right person to be doing it in the structure of your team, you are more likely to be heard. Peer to peer feedback CAN work in some circumstances but most people on a team see themselves as equal and are reluctant to take criticism from someone they don’t consider as being in a leadership role.
Authority also comes with time. A brand new leader of a team may not be speaking with authority when they give feedback due simply to the fact that they haven’t interacted with the team long enough to be in the know.
Credibility is important in that if you don’t know your subject matter and you are unfamiliar with the team, you won’t have much credibility with them, and nor will your feedback.
Finally, trustworthiness comes down to that element of safety, mentioned earlier. Feedback given in the right circumstances and environment builds trust and a solid working relationship. If the team members feels that the feedback given will be shared inappropriately or otherwise misused, it won’t be heard.
Five essentials when giving feedback
- Be positive!
- Be specific!
- Be timely! (Giving feedback on something that happened six months ago isn’t particularly helpful!)
- Be clear!
- Be conversational! (Make it a conversation, not a commandment. Allowing the team to respond and discuss the feedback is important.)
Related: How to Get Your Team to Speak Up
Following up is another essential key in providing feedback. Giving it and then just leaving it out there, without a time frame for following up to see if it was heard/implemented, isn’t helpful to you or your team. This is a chance for you to give positive feedback when the team is doing what you requested. Don’t miss it!
If you need help to learn the subtleties surrounding the art of giving feedback, consider getting some coaching. You can learn to give even the hardest feedback clearly, without judgment and in a way that the receiver can hear and act on it.