Team leaders seek to develop high performance teams to achieve smooth deliveries. Feedback is a very important component to enable a teams members to blossom to their full potential within their position. Listening and providing meaningful feedback is a skill, and like all skills it takes practice to learn the techniques and to how to apply them. The leader needs to be aware of the employees’ work performance in order to be able to coach them effectively. A key part of coaching is the identification of improvement areas, that you can focus the direct towards higher performance.

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Patrick McCarthy

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Suffering from late deliveries! High attrition! Dissatisfied customers! Or stagnant team members? Feedback provided in the right way, with the right intention, leads to outstanding performance. Creating a happy, productive team.

Team leaders seek to develop high performance teams to achieve smooth deliveries. Feedback is a very important component to enable a teams members to blossom to their full potential within their position. Listening and providing meaningful feedback is a skill, and like all skills it takes practice to learn the techniques and to how to apply them.

Tell employees what they are doing well and how to improve, sparks growth. Deliver feedback frequently to build up the habit of giving and receiving it in a truly effective manner. The receiver has to be willing to listen to your advice and suggestions on ways to up level. This trust is established over time.

What is the correct frequency?

Gauge how much each individual can handle for each type of feedback. Ask them what their preference is. Too much or too little have their problems. The former can cause shutdown and the latter is ineffective. Strive for balance using the many modes of delivery described below. Begin by asking the person if they are willing to receive feedback. It’s imperative to get permission as it clears the communication channel.

I currently follow the ACE feedback model. I find it to be a very effective formula and it delivers spectacular results.

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Appreciation

This should be the most common kind of feedback you are providing to your directs. Be Intentional, thank them for their efforts when they have completed a task or achieved a milestone. Utilise several mediums, from a quick thumbs-up icon in instant messenger, verbal praise, formally through a feedback tool, or as a shout-out in a team meeting. Learn to give praise liberally, measure the amount you are giving to your team to really put focus on it.

Praise your employees’ efforts when talking to people who make decisions on their career progress. Decision makers need upwards feedback to stay in touch with each employee’s growth. Decision makers can then align corresponding advancement of an employees career as they grow to their potential.

Coaching

As a leader your role is to observe the directs so that you can provide effective coaching feedback. Work with them to identify how they can perform at an even higher level than they currently achieve. It’s a collaborative journey with shared goals.

The key part of coaching is the identification of improvement areas, that you can focus and direct towards higher performance. Ensure to regularly provide evaluations on their current tasks. The gaps between the completed work and your expectations are the areas for targeted coaching.

Provide very specific task based coaching and more generic coaching that you link to a career framework that the team member is progressing along. The leader needs to be aware of the employees’ work performance in order to be able to coach them effectively.

There is a specific technique to structure feedback known as situation, behaviour and impact (SBI) that can be used to open a discussion on where you have observed a behaviour and the impact it had. This technique is also used to provide praise to encourage similar behaviour or provide reflection to change behaviour.

A second technique to discuss behaviour change, is to employ a socratic questioning style. This brings the answers out from the individual, and that is very impactful. Simply asking exploratory questions like the examples below can bring the answer from the individual.

“Did you encounter any problems on the task? How did you tackle it? Is there anything you could do differently the next time?”

A direct coaching style is to tell what, how and where the change is required. This is effective and should be used in conjunction with the other techniques outlined above. It needs to be a part of your toolbox, not the go-to option. (Especially useful in time critical situations).

In order to lay the groundwork for change, it is helpful to increase a direct report’s knowledge of different theories on the topic to be discussed. It is easier to make them aware that expert models already exist and paths to levelling up are well established.

I have found that people accept the message quicker when it’s coming from an expert authority. Coaching to a model allows the redirection of the focal point onto the model and off of the direct. It is a much more comfortable way of discussing growth. When an expert model is available I recommend referring to it as a topic of discussion and how that model could be used to improve performance.

Examples of expert models for common growth areas:

  • Time Management – Pomodoro, flow etc..
  • Stress Management – Holmes & Rahe, Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress etc…
  • Problem Solving – FOCUS, Hurson’s Productive Thinking etc…
  • Decision Making – Six Thinking Hats, RACI, Bezos type 1 and type 2 etc…

Evaluation

Identify and communicate the expectation for the role, refer to the job role and career frameworks. Evaluate current work tasks against expectations to keep everyone aligned and use their contribution performance to identify areas for feedback to unlock growth.

360 feedback is a great method to get multiple feedback sources from within and outside the current team. There are many examples of 360 feedback questionnaires on the web, look through them and customise as required.

One area that is often missing is providing example answers for the questions. For best results, provide some examples that give a format to the answers. e.g. 1-5 ranging from poor, fair, good, v.good, excellent with supporting descriptions. “I liked how X was completed on project Y as it caused/demonstrated Z”, “When you did X, it made me feel Y”, “Have you thought about X in relation to Y”

Soliciting feedback from others to promote self growth

It is often uncomfortable to provide feedback to people, so asking directs, peers or seniors doesn’t necessarily deliver great results. A technique that works well is feedforward. Use this technique by asking for feedback on a piece of work you have just completed or on a particular skill.

For example “How could I improve that presentation I gave last Tuesday”, or “what could I have improved in the design of that feature”, “Please advise me on how could I have handled situation X more effectively”

Anti patterns to avoid:

  1. Criticising rather than providing feedback.
    People are reluctant to provide feedback in case it is perceived as criticism. What is the difference between feedback and criticism?
    Criticism focuses on misses and the intention is to reprimand in the form of blame or shaming. Feedback is given with good intention and is focused on improving specific behaviours/skills in an overall growth journey.
  2. Only providing feedback when corrective behaviour is warranted.
  3. Waiting too long to provide feedback.
  4. Feedback that is not actionable.

Feedback Matrix to assess the current feedback situation

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Using the feedback matrix, aim for the top right, to bring about growth, create opportunities alongside the feedback. Without a corresponding opportunity, it is ineffective.

Conclusion

The feedback techniques outlined above act as a powerful tool to enable career growth and build high performing individuals. This in turn makes up a high performing team. I have found the techniques to be powerful and very effective at creating productive teams.

Make feedback normal, not a performance review.

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