In this month’s column, let’s look at giving and receiving feedback, and one innovative and supportive way to engage your team in giving feedback to one another.
First a few reminders about feedback in the workplace: regular, well-constructed, timely feedback is essential for long-term organizational health. Feedback is also vital for promoting growth and self-awareness and providing insight into professional strengths and weaknesses. Giving and receiving feedback is based on a mutually understood psychological contract that doing so is appropriate to the relationship.
Feedback can go up to managers and leaders, across to colleagues, and down to staff, and even sometimes out to vendors or external partners. Feedback is one of the most dreaded and neglected activities by many managers, leaders, and staff. Developing this skill and habit takes time and intention but pays off with significant benefits.
It is helpful to have an array of tools built into your organization’s feedback mechanisms. Consider the following:
- 360-degree feedback.
- Formal one-on-one feedback, done at regular intervals.
- Live-time feedback.
- ‘Quick bits’ feedback — can be done once a week in a quick discussion.
- Emails asking questions that provide quick feedback; for example, “What should I do less of/more of? What should I start doing/stop doing?”
There are many more ideas and tools on the internet that you can explore. Be sure to engage your HR professionals in designing your feedback systems and selecting tools. Let’s look at one tool for engaging colleagues at all levels in giving each other feedback in a supportive way.
On a side note, one phrase I would encourage you to remove from your vocabulary when giving and receiving feedback is, “It is not personal.” There is no such thing as ‘not personal’ feedback. Anything someone says about you, or your behavior is personal since you are a person, and it is about you. The issue is that the word “personal” is used to mean “an attack on me,” which can be an over-reaction when the feedback is related to work performance or is providing instruction. Work performance feedback should not be an attack. It might be ‘personal’ in the pure sense of the word, but it should never be about anything except skills and behaviors related to the work and organizational culture.
As my colleague at Organizational Performance Group (OPG), Dean Reynolds, points out, “When feedback comes from colleagues, it carries additional value because it draws from a variety of perspectives and experiences within the same environment. Through colleague feedback, individuals and teams can improve their communication, accountability, trust, and overall team dynamics.”
One tool a team can use to provide feedback to each other is Speedback, a tool Dean has adapted for use with our clients. In this activity, colleagues provide concise and relevant feedback allowing for personal reflection and areas of improvement.
There are three steps:
- Person A tells Person B something they like about their work behavior.
- Person A then tells Person B what they would like to see more of in their work behavior.
- Person B responds with what will happen if they do more of Person A’s suggestion.
These steps can be repeated until every team member has provided feedback to each other or the allotted time limit has expired.
For further guidance on Speedback, instructions are provided below.
Step 1. Create two lines facing each other. One line will be A and one will be B.
Step 2. First, each person in line A tells the person in front of them in line B what they like about Person B’s work behavior using this sentence structure, “I like that… [say the behavior].”
- For example, “I like that you proactively communicate.”
Step 3. Person A then tells Person B what they would like to see more of in their work behavior: “I would like you to… [action/behavior you would like to see more of].”
- For example, “I would like you to show up on time to meetings more. Sometimes you can be a bit late, and I think people will appreciate it when they can rely on you.”
Step 4. Person B responds with what they think will happen if they were to do more of what Person A suggested: “If I… [did the action/behavior Person A would like to see more of], then I would be like… [outcome from the action/behavior].”
- For example, “If I would show up on time more often, then I would be like someone who can be trusted, and they will pay more attention to what I have to say.”
Step 5. Reverse the roles.
Step 6. Every person in row A moves to their right by one person. Repeat steps 1-6 until every person has provided feedback to each other or the allotted time has run out.
If you have a specific management or leadership dilemma or question that you’d like addressed in this column, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior “Management Matters” columns
In case you’d like to look back, in the first eleven columns of “Management Matters,” I have covered:
- Leading in academe and the spheres of influence.
- The identity shift from scholar to leader, and the management progression.
- The paradoxical tensions a leader must hold.
- Ways to clear out your to-do list so you can focus on more purpose-driven work.
- Handling difficult conversations (with joy!).
- Fake consensus — using the right group decision-making method for the problem at hand.
- Microlevers™ — small moves for big workplace culture change.
- Charrettes — collective intense effort to produce amazing results.
- Shared vision as a guiding star.
- Leading through visibility.
- The four-day workweek.
- Personal versus professional authenticity
About the author
Laura Freebairn-Smith is a Partner and Co-founder of Organizational Performance Group (OPG), a management consulting firm that believes people and their ability to work together are critical to the success of your organization. She holds an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Systems. She has taught as faculty and guest lecturer at Yale, Georgetown, Central CT State University, and the University of New Haven. She was formerly the creator and Director of the Organizational Development & Learning Center at Yale. For more information on Laura and her work, visit www.orgpg.com.
[i] Adapted from Wang, Julie. “Your Team Can Power through with These 6 Feedback Exercises – Manage better: The #1 Manager Empowerment Software.” ManageBetter, ManageBetter: The #1 Manager Empowerment Software, managebetter.com/blog/try-these-feedback-exercises-with-your-team. Accessed 20 Sept. 2023.