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Play 10 - Promote a healthy culture of improvement through constructive feedback

Feedback, similar to delegation, is a fundamental tool in a supervisor’s (or anyone’s!) toolbox that can be challenging to use correctly. However, it is a critical skill to build and leverage, both in terms of providing feedback and receiving feedback. As a supervisor, you need to both share constructive feedback with others and solicit and incorporate feedback from others.

Whenever you are offered feedback, it can be jarring even when you’re prepared to receive it or explicitly asked for it. This is because we generally may not want to hear or receive information about ourselves, especially difficult information. It is important, however, to take the time to self-reflect on how things are going, share these insights with others, and ask for their feedback and observations in an effort to cause awareness and improve. For example, you could ask your supervisor specific things you can do to improve your performance or you could ask individuals on your team what you can do to make them feel more invested in their working life.

There are many paths to gathering or soliciting feedback. One strategy is to ask for it informally during 1:1s. Asking simple, open-ended questions to see what someone wants you to continue doing, stop doing, change, etc. can be very helpful. Recognize that this can put folks on the spot, and they may not be ready or comfortable, so be sure to provide alternative ways to share this information (e.g., an anonymous form, a note to your supervisor, etc.) and that you would genuinely like to receive it. It is also easier to solicit feedback when you’ve made it a regular occurrence, not a one-off surprise.

Be sure that you are in active listening mode. Let the person complete their thoughts (or read through their whole message), ask follow-up questions as needed, and repeat things back to make sure you understand them correctly. If you need time to think over a piece of feedback, tell the person! It’s better to acknowledge and pause, than have a gut reaction.

When it is time to share feedback with others, note that feedback is most useful when it’s timely, constructive, specific, and actionable, but there are many nuances to this. In order to ensure it’s a positive experience for the individual, be honest about your intent: is it to praise a job well done, to help course correct behavior, or is it to coach or mentor the individual to grow their skills? Knowing why you want to provide feedback is important: it helps you frame the feedback constructively, and helps you avoid lashing out when feeling frustrated.

Next, make sure it’s a time and setting where someone is receptive and able to receive the feedback. Timeliness is very important when it comes to feedback – the sooner after an event, the better. But, sometimes it cannot be provided at that moment. Not only do you want to make sure that it’s an appropriate time and setting, you also want to make sure that the individual can be receptive to the feedback as well. In your 1:1’s with your team members, ask how they prefer to receive feedback to understand what works best for them.

Lastly, if the feedback involves anything where there is an expectation that an action will be taken or a change will be made, document the explicit request: what the individual will do, when the action or task will be due, and what the expected outcome(s) will be. This will ensure that the feedback is taken seriously and taken to heart.

Action Items

  • Review the , external,SBI framework and , external,5 Tips for Giving Better Feedback.
  • Consider your recent interactions with your direct reports:
    • How many direct reports have received feedback from you in the past month?
    • Are there any differences in who is receiving feedback, and who is not?
    • Who needs to receive feedback and hasn’t gotten it from you yet? What is the next step you need to take, in order to deliver that feedback? Take that step.
  • How often have you solicited feedback from others about yourself?

Play 10 Reflection Questions

  • As you watch the team in action, what cultural team norms have you observed? Which norms are explicit, and which are implicit? What are team norms that you want to foster?
  • Think about all the people who you will work with and who you want to learn from. What barriers, if any, do you anticipate? How might you approach these challenges?

Play 10 Case Studies

  • You provide a team member with some constructive feedback based on a recent interaction they had with the team. You notice that they take the feedback personally and react negatively in the moment. How might this impact the team member, and the team at large? What consequences could come of this interaction in the future? What will you do to resolve the situation, and what could you do differently in the future?
  • A team member comes to you with concerns about how a project is going, and while not casting blame and remaining professional, strongly implies that your leadership and/or decisions have had adverse impacts on the team being able to succeed. How will you receive this information? What will you do going forward to adjust course?
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