“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” - Ken Blanchard
New and seasoned managers often find giving their team members feedback to be the hardest part of their job – especially ‘constructive feedback’ (a nice way of saying negative!). Many will therefore avoid doing it, which can lead to significant downstream problems.
Take, for example, the team member who constantly interrupts other team members during team discussions, pressing their own opinion without considering those of others. Failing to address this problem as a manager will not only impact team morale, it will reduce the diversity of thought and perspective considered as the team solves problems or innovates new solutions, leading to reduced performance. Worse, if left unchecked, other members of the team may eventually leave to find a place where their ideas will be heard.
In the example above it’s clearly a good idea to help that team member understand the impact that they are having on the team since it is likely they are not aware of how their behaviors are perceived and would actually be grateful for the insight. Your role as a manager is to help your people grow, to become more effective in their role, and to prepare them for whatever might come next. For guaranteed results, you should be offering specific, candid, and actionable guidance on what they’re doing well and what they could improve.
If you do find it hard, try following these simple suggestions:
- Build trust: Make sure the person understands you care about them as well as the work they do (that’s your job as a manager, so you should be doing that all the time anyway!).
- Invite feedback: Start by inviting the behavior in others – show them that you’re open to feedback, invite it and accept it as a gift – and act on it! (In the early stages, try not to criticize the way it’s delivered and just recognize and value the fact that it is!).
- Be Specific: When offering feedback, be very specific (“When you did X”) and don’t generalize (“You always…”).
- Focus on the work: Don’t tell someone they’re “opinionated” (thus labeling the person), tell them about the impact they have when they don’t allow others to express their opinions (the behavior).
- Offer to help: Don’t just throw them a curve ball and run, brainstorm together ways the team member can change their behavior for the most desirable outcome.
This is always going to be a challenging aspect of your role. Sharing feedback can be uncomfortable for both parties involved, but when done with the genuine intention to help someone grow and improve, and done consistently as part of the team culture, it will begin to unlock real potential in the team.
This week’s inquiry…
How would building a culture of continuous feedback unlock potential in your team?
It’s a rare and precious thing to give praise and criticism in a way that’s challenging and caring at the same time. In this video Kim Scott, author of the book “Radical Candor” explains a deceptively simple yet powerful tool that will help you say what you really think in a way that helps you build stronger relationships at work and in life.
“Radical candor happens when you fulfill your moral obligation– it’s not just your job– it’s your moral obligation to say what you really think and to allow yourself to challenge others, but also to be challenged in return.”
Kim Scott was a highly successful leader at Google and Apple, where she developed the concept of “Radical Candor” – caring personally and challenging directly, about soliciting criticism to improve your leadership and also providing guidance that helps others grow. Radical Candor recognizes that people need both praise and criticism in order to grow. If you’re struggling to deliver feedback, this powerful framework will both convince you it’s needed, and help you to deliver it well.