"How dare he tell ME that I could do better, doesn't he know how terrible he is and how poorly the rest of the team thinks of him?! Wait until I tell Rosita about this, she is going to love this!"
Unless the supervisor implements a feedback mechanism with appropriate coaching and specific tools, feedback can actually hinder relationships and performance. While sharing honest and honoring feedback is a key factor in managing conflict, giving and receiving feedback requires practice, patience and, very often, forgiveness. I have found that delivering feedback in a non-judgmental way can be very difficult, and this makes feedback preparations extremely useful for staff members. As hard as it is to prepare honoring and honest feedback, it can be even harder to receive feedback and learn from it.
Proceed with Caution...
Successful feedback is almost impossible to accomplish when there is a low level of trust and high level of fear among team members. More than likely, if we are in conflict with someone who is attempting to deliver feedback to us, we will be judging that person during the entire dialog. It is critical for the supervisor to understand this and proactively address this situation.
Honest and non-judging feedback is critical in our efforts to learn about ourselves and about each other. It is also an area in which "one step forward, two steps back" scenarios are likely. The supervisor must endorse this process while providing coaching and tools to help all team members do their best when sharing or receiving feedback. Depending on the types of issues the team is facing, starting this process can be extremely complicated. The supervisor must be very cautious and work closely with Human Resources for advice and support.
Start at the top
An effective tactic for supervisors in the implementation of a feedback mechanism is to invite feedback from all staff members. The supervisor must make sure everyone knows that the intent is to help the supervisor be more effective and to learn from everyone in the team. It is important to stress that this needs to be a respectful session, and the supervisor must be prepared to actively listen and avoid being defensive. If this is done appropriately, the supervisor has an opportunity to show each member of the team the best way to receive feedback. During a subsequent general meeting, the supervisor can then report the shared feedback to the whole staff and advise them of the supervisor’s plans to address that feedback.
Again, proceed with caution. Authority can be a strong temptation to distort the feedback provided and enter into collusion. If the supervisor gets defensive and starts justifying actions during the feedback session, then the wrong example will be set. If the supervisor can’t do what is being asked of others, how can the supervisor expect team members to receive feedback with an open mind and positive attitude?
Set the example and do what you ask of others
If done correctly, the supervisor can show how the feedback process can be a strategic part of the team's ability to develop trust, learn from its members, and deliver outstanding results. The supervisor can show how asking for feedback, listening actively, and finding ways to improve can grow trust in the team and improve performance. If the supervisor starts leading better based on feedback from staff members, employees will recognize the effort. Unfortunately, what I often see are supervisors that ask staff members to do something they don’t do themselves.
By setting the example and providing tools (such as the feedback invitation e-mail below) as well as coaching, the supervisor can put a feedback mechanism in place that leverages all the strategies I have covered in the previous 5 articles. Strength themes, personality types, team safety, growing the sphere of influence, and maintaining harmony can all be used in the feedback process.
Hi xxxx, we have had some activity on our XYZ project and I would really like for you and I to have a feedback dialog. It would be great if I could share some thoughts with you and get your perspective about some of the XXXX XXXX issues we have had in the last few days.
Also, if you have any feedback you would like to share with me, I would be very interested. My intent is to have an open dialog with you so that we can honor each other and learn about ways that we can be better together.
If you would like to do this, let me know when you can meet. I would be happy to set something up for us.
Thanks for your consideration.