You will find that you love working with your team when you commit to supporting and developing their work and their growth. The only way to do this? Give excellent feedback.
Here are 10 critical tips every manager must use to build a team that is a pleasure to work with:
1. Your feedback is your product.
If you are a master brewer, you put time, energy, and expertise into creating the best beer possible. That beer is your product, and you constantly look for ways to improve. When you are a manager, your product is your feedback. Put as much effort into producing and improving the feedback you give. As you improve your product delivery, your team will improve theirs, too.
2. Before giving feedback, set clear expectations.
Technically, it’s not feedback unless you gave your team clear expectations. It’s not fair or relevant to hold someone accountable for a specific objective or procedure when they didn’t know about it. You can’t assume they know. You must be clear and specific, and share the rationale of each objective to improve buy-in.
If you recognize that clear expectations are missing in your team, it’s not too late. Pull your team together, take responsibility (see Tip#9), and set clear expectations, in writing preferably.
3. Reinforce the foundation before you remodel.
Giving positive feedback reinforces the foundation of any working relationship. When I know that you value the work I do and that you trust and respect me, I can feel coached on my development, not attacked for my shortcomings.
It has been proven in multiple research studies that the most effective feedback is given in a ratio of at least seven positives to one corrective message. Every human has a genuine need for approval. Corrective feedback, no matter how well delivered or deserved, takes a significant toll on our sense of approval. Too much correction without reinforcing and people start feeling resentful. Then they may under-produce to regain a sense of control or because they don’t understand how to regain approval.
Develop a habit of giving specific positive feedback as a habit. It’s doesn’t take much time to say, “Hey, I appreciate your work on the sales report.” If you write it on a sticky note, it has three times the impact, too!
4. Look for the flaw in the system first.
Before giving corrective feedback, investigate the system. This may take more of your time on the front end. However, it will save you from firing, re-hiring, and training new staff only to discover the same problem arising again. Is the problem in the personnel or in the system the personnel are using to reach the desired outcome? Investigate from multiple perspectives, not just your own.
5. Know the difference between performance and style.
Performance: Does the job get done effectively and efficiently? When giving feedback on performance, use specific measurable observations. Examples: the report was in two hours late; your sales increased by 10%; you have been involved in five safety incidents in the past six months. State clearly what you want to change or continue.
Style: How does the job get done? When giving feedback on style, explore the advantages and disadvantages of the methods used. Examples: you tend to be very social with the customers; you walk in the door right at 9 and leave right at 5; you tend to talk more in meetings than others. Help the person see how the style has benefits and costs, and support them as they consider how changing their style could create more benefits for them and the team.
6. To nip or not to nip…
When do you “nip things in the bud,” coming down with loud and clear correction? General rule: when there is a clear and present danger.
Think of it like driving in a car with someone you care about. Should you yell “Look out!” when he rolls through a stop sign, or when he’s going off the road? If you want to stay in the car, you save the yelling for the major danger.
If he’s frequently rolling through stop signs and it’s your job to help him become a better driver, then you can give some style feedback about the pattern you noticed.
Otherwise, let the poor guy drive!
7. Choose the right time and place.
There are circumstances when feedback is best given in private and others when feedback is better shared in public. Some feedback is better received right after an event. But there are times when it better to wait a bit before giving feedback.
How do you know? One way is to ask. Talk to each person on your team, and ask them when and where they like to hear different kinds of feedback. Do what you can to honor their preferences. Also, let them know that they can always change their minds.
Pay close attention to your emotional state when giving feedback. High emotion states may not be productive times to give masterful feedback. Give yourself time to process some of the emotion before entering into a feedback-sharing conversation if possible. This may seem to contradict the previous Tip#6 about nipping, so let me explain. In a high emotion state, you can give a clear directive. Then, once you have processed, open up the conversation for more in-depth feedback.
8. Stop serving “Poop Sandwiches.”
A common strategy for giving feedback is often referred to as The Poop Sandwich (G-rated version). People are taught that if they have corrective feedback, they should first say something positive, then give the corrective, then follow-up with positive.
“You’re really great around the office, but your presentations are weak. You’re still doing a good job overall.”
Instead of this rather cowardly tactic, consider being bravely supportive.
When something isn’t working well, address it specifically and ask for a commitment to change.
“Thank you for your time. In your presentation, I had a difficult time hearing you and there wasn’t enough supporting research to create a convincing case. You are a valuable member of our team, and I want to help you improve. Are you open to working on this?”
If the person won’t acknowledge the problem or isn’t willing to work on improving, then you just identified a bigger problem. If they are willing to change but you don’t have the time or resources to help, find someone who does.
9. Take full responsibility for your actions.
If you want your feedback to lead to improvements on your team, you need to role model how to take full responsibility.
Many managers will take partial responsibility. “I’ll take responsibility, but everyone else played a part in the failure. I still take some of the blame.”
That’s a Gourmet Poop Sandwich.
If you really want to love your team, be bold enough to take full responsibility. “I take 100% responsibility. The buck stops here. I didn’t provide what was needed, and we didn’t get the results we wanted. Let’s look at what happened and learn from it.”
When the leader sincerely takes responsibility, it gives permission for others to do the same. It creates a culture of solution-finding instead of blame-finding.
10. Create a culture of feedback.
If feedback is only a one-way street, all the previous tips may still fail to create a team you love to work with. You must facilitate a way for your team to share productive feedback with each other. When a team talks behind each others’ backs, it’s a sign that they don’t feel supported in a culture of feedback sharing.
Most importantly, you must actively seek and receive feedback from your team. This may be the hardest part (which is why it’s so rare), but it is critical. While many people falsely believe that it’s best when their team fears them, this actually chokes off your team from sharing critical information with you.
Just saying, “My door is always open,” isn’t enough. Go out of your door, or invite each of them in. Ask, “So, what do you see that I’m not seeing? How can I do better?” And listen.
If you need help improving your skills in entering into feedback, find a good coach. It will be the best investment you can make in creating your dream team. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families. Why work with a team you don’t love?
What ‘s been the hardest part of giving feedback for you? Which of these tips will make the biggest change in how you give feedback in your team? Let me know in the comments below.