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Successfully delivering feedback to team members can make or break the spirit of the person and/or the productivity of the team. Use these keys to help craft, deliver, and track responsiveness to feedback:
GIVE FEEDBACK IN A TIMELY MANNER. Don’t wait until “the next time” you have to assign a project to someone to remind them of the mistakes on the last assignment. Build in time at the completion of tasks to assess performance and provide constructive feedback.
WRITE IT OUT. I suggest creating a feedback form which covers the basic areas of performance/success you want to address in giving feedback. The form will be invaluable because it allows for consistently assessing feedback across all team members. You can even include a section to deal with issues unique to a particular project/person. Be careful with this…you may have to decide whether these are your “personal” notes or become a part of the file. Either way, it helps you to look at feedback from a comprehensive perspective.
PROVIDE TEAM FEEDBACK. In addition to one-on-one feedback, assemble the troops and give an overall assessment, Offer opportunities for the team to assess their own performance as well. This is a great opportunity to give out kudos, manage expectations for future projects and identify lessons learned.
PREPARE FOR FALL OUT. It goes without saying that not all feedback is going to be a “pat on the back.” There are times when it is necessary to address poor performance, negligence, incompetence, etc.; while more difficult, it is still necessary. Things left unsaid, as it relates to performance and expectation, equate to acceptance of the behavior or performance. Think carefully about how to craft dialogue which states your concerns but also offers tools to improve. Be specific. This is not the time to dance around the issues, offer examples, provide data, be clear. If the goal is for the behavior not to be repeated or the performance to improve this step is critical. It will be necessary for you to anticipate disagreement or an emotional response. The form suggested in Key 2 will help should this occur. You will be able to “stick to the script” and ensure that you cover all important issues.
SOLICIT FEEDBACK ON YOUR ROLE. Self evaluation is beneficial to the superior just like it is to the subordinate. In opening the dialogue for feedback its helps to show the team and its members that not only are you dissecting team performance you are also looking at ways to more effectively lead the team iin achieving its goals and objectives. Position yourself to be a “solution-focused” rather than a “problem-driven” team leader. The goal is always to improve and create/sustain positive momentum.
REFER BACK TO FEEDBACK. Revisiting feedback is a good thing when done correctly. Just be careful not to do it in such a way that the team member feels like you are doing the “I told you so” tap dance on their forehead. Review the feedback you have given in the past and use it as a way to guide/support the team in upcoming endeavors. For instance, if meeting deadlines was a challenge in a previous engagement then it becomes an area of focus for the new engagement. Knowing what derailed you last time can arm you for the next time.
ENFORCE THE 5-MINUTE RULE. Ideally, you have given some thought to the feedback you will provide prior to meeting with a team/team member. Once you have documented your feedback walk away from it for awhile. I call it the “5 minute rule” but really it’s an hour or a day. Revisit what you wrote and how you felt, you may want to tweak it. Give yourself an opportunity to rethink, rephrase, restate or explain something more effectively. This rule has saved me time and time again.
At the end of the day, the purpose of feedback should be to improve not to indict. We want our teams to strengthen weakness and improve on strengths. Our ability to positively influence future performance is often tied to our delivery of feedback.
ENNA A. BACHELOR