Managing Teams Means Giving Feedback

ProjectManager.com

Learn the art of constructive feedback when managing your team in this short video with project management trainer Jennifer Bridges.

In Review: Managing Teams and Giving Feedback

Jennifer discussed the oftentimes nerve-wracking process of providing feedback, positive or negative. It’s one of the most difficult aspects of managing people, and definitely is part art and part science.

Jennifer recommends providing feedback after the dust has settled. In the midst of a work crisis, when tensions are running high, is not usually the best to for any feedback to be received. Rather, it’s ideal to establish a time for a one-on-one.

She recommends the following tips you should follow before you even decide to provide feedback:

  • Know why you’re providing the feedback. What’s the intended result? Is this for their benefit to grow in their work? Or is it to make yourself feel like you’re on top of your team? Check yourself before you speak in order to ask whether you’ve thought through the reason for providing the feedback thoroughly.
  • Communicate with a heads-up. If the feedback is part of your normal formal review process, adequate notice is common courtesy to let them know that you’ll be taking the time to provide feedback. It’s also a good practice to be open to listen to their feedback, so giving them time to prepare is best.
  • Ask. Ad hoc or “drive-by” feedback is a natural course of business, but it’s only valuable if the person is open to receiving it. Take a moment to ask whether they’re open to a few suggestions. They might say yes and actually be prepared to receive your advice. Or, they may push back

When you’re ready, and the person you’re providing the feedback to is also ready, then remember the following:

  • Be clear
  • Be specific
  • Be sensitive
  • Be positive

Offer up tangible solutions or offer to brainstorm solutions together. Providing feedback without clear takeaways isn’t helpful and isn’t likely to produce any results.

Pro-Tip: Real leaders also ask for feedback. In fact, since your team is unlikely to provide unsolicited feedback to you, you might have to really extend yourself to your team and let them know you are receptive to hearing their thoughts, as well. This Inc. article by Adam Vaccarro explores how you can pursue this strategy with your team.

You might also explore what your project team expects from you in this article from Jason Westland.

We hope you found this whiteboard session useful. Thanks for watching!

Transcription

Hello. I am Jennifer Bridges, Director of ProjectManager.com. Welcome today to our whiteboard session on how to give constructive feedback. We have all been on both sides of that fence, where we have received constructive feedback, and we have also had to give it. It is one of the most nerve-racking things a project manager can do. We typically, find ourselves in situations where we want to provide feedback at the most inopportune time.

Maybe, it is in the middle of a crisis where none of us are at our best, where emotions are high, and sensitivities are high. It is not the best scenario. What I want to do is provide some tips that I have learned, that I have to practice myself, during times where I am called to give constructive feedback.

Number one, I think it is important to know why. Why are do we feel like we need to provide constructive feedback in status reports? Why are we giving this? It is for the purpose of what? What do you want to see happen as a result? It is important to know that, because if you do not, you may end up with a different result or worse yet, you may end up with a bad relationship. It is important to know: Is this feedback or is this result something for you, or for the development and growth of the other person? Again, the result is you do not want some other result than what you want, and more importantly, you are probably are not looking for a bad relationship either.

One thing is to determine if this feedback going to be provided during a formal review, at a sit-down scheduled time. Is this going to be an ad-hoc, a drive by, something that is occurring in the middle of a crisis of one of your projects? If it is a formal review, I think it is just common courtesy to give the person a heads-up, ‘We are going to have a formal review on this day, on this time. I plan to cover these items, and more importantly, I am going to be provided constructive feedback.’ They can not only have a heads-up, but they can also prepare. What do you plan to give them the constructive feedback on? It is great that they can have things in order so they do not feel like they are blindsided.

If it is ad-hoc, or what we call the ‘drive by’s,’ is if you are in a situation where you need to provide constructive feedback real-time. Again, when the stakes, emotions, and sensitivities are high, it is best to ask, ‘Are you open? Are you open to receive this feedback?’ Number one, if they are not, you are not going to get anywhere anyway. You want to actually have them listen to you or have a discussion with you, dialogue, on whatever you are planning to address, so ask them, ‘Are you open to some feedback?’

Are you going to talk about deliverables or behavior? Are you going to be addressing what they were to provide and when, or for how much? Is it something behavioral? How they went about doing something. Be clear and be specific on what you are going to be addressing. Avoid attacking the person, and extend them respect. After all, they are on your project, whether they are your colleague or a project team member, they may actually be a stakeholder, or on your change control board, so these are people that you want to influence in some way. Showing them common courtesy and respect will get you way further than any other approach.

Start with the positive: It is good to acknowledge people for all the good things we do. Our teams that we are always attacking the things that they do wrong, it is just they are going to run and avoid you, so acknowledge the things that they are doing well, and start with something positive, or even something positive about whether it is a deliverable or behavior: ‘I noticed you did this part of this deliverable really well, but it looked like you were struggling with another piece,’ so start with a positive.

Ask questions: If you are talking about a deliverable, have them start with, ‘Tell me about the deliverable that you are working with?’ ‘Tell me more about the group that you are working with to get this deliverable done.” Have them open up, so start with a dialogue. I have found that many times I go into a situation thinking that I have all of my information correct and accurate, and maybe I have received that information for other resources besides this person. It is always great to get the other side of the coin, their perspective, and maybe some additional facts before you start into the constructive feedback. You may open up and find some other information you were not aware of. Open with it open-ended and let them talk.

If it is about a behavior, if you did something, if they tried an approach that you are going to give them feedback one, ask them candidly, ‘How is that working out for you?’ If their addressing other team members or doing something that caused other members of the team to be adversely affected, then they probably already know that, that approach did not work very well, and they probably regret it, after all. By opening up, that gives them an outlet to say, ‘I did this, and I realize now I really upset the team.’

Also, be candid and specific: It is good to be candid; you want to tell the truth about what it is you are addressing, and be specific. Instead of saying, ‘You are really upsetting the team.’ ‘Really? How is that?’ If they ask for a specific example and you cannot give it, it is really hard to remain credible and trustworthy yourself, so give them a specific scenario. Ask how this . . . let them know that how that impacted the project, a person on the team, the team itself, or that specific organization. Let them know, address whether it is a deliverable they are not producing or a behavior. Let them know how that is impacting.

Then offer up suggestions and support: To hit someone over the head and just leave them there is not the best approach. Maybe give them some suggestions. Let them know, ‘This has happened to me too. I remember I did that several times on our other project, and that was a lesson learned for me. These are some things that I tried that really helped me in those areas.’ Give them something to work with, give them a suggestion or offer support, ‘Let me know how I can support you. Let me know if you need any additional training. If that person keeps bothering you on the team or that other organization, then come back and let me know. I will talk to their manager.’ That way, you are addressing something that they do not have to address.

Offer next steps: Once you have addressed the candid specific scenario, and you have offered some suggestions or maybe some other resources, do a next step. Follow-up with them so that you are not just leaving them hanging, treat it more like a developmental opportunity. You can follow-up and let them know that you are concerned and you are supportive. You are not just harassing them about something, about the next new thing.

End with something positive. Again, these are people on our team, we want to establish and nurture the good relationships on our team. They are good team members and being able to support them.

I think a bonus is knowing who we are talking with and how they receive support. If they are a detail-oriented person, they are probably going to want to know details. Show them some details, maybe a project plan, or deliverables diagram: ‘Here is a deliverables diagram and here is our schedule. I notice that you keep missing this deliverable or this timeline,’ point to something specific, a budget item, or something maybe behavioral. Show them in the plan or the expectations you are supposed to follow. If they are not, if they are an action-oriented person, speak to them in their language, something that they can understand.

I feel like these are some of the things that have certainly helped me in my time of crisis in giving candid feedback. Given me some guidelines that have helped turn a potential situation or a result I was not expecting, or more importantly, has helped me to avoid creating bad relationships on my projects.

If you need any tips, tools, or techniques to help you deliver constructive feedback on your project, then visit us at ProjectManager.com.

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