Imagine with me for just a moment…
(if you have been leading long, it won’t be too hard – you have probably been in a similar situation before…)
You are managing a team that is working on a critical project. Your team is heads-down, all-hands-on-deck at all hours. One team member, Jim, approaches you and asks to be removed from the project.
When you ask why, he tells you that he does not like working with another team member, Mary, because they do not get along well.
Then, at the next team meeting, you notice Jim and Mary’s dynamic. They are not cooperating and others on the team take notice. You know morale will suffer if you do not act.
How do you proceed?
It is an age-old problem that leaders face. Confrontation feels like conflict, so we think it is awkward and we often like to avoid it. But for the sake of our team member, our team, and our organization, we must engage.
But how? How can you empathetically, but effectively, communicate feedback to your team? Keep these considerations in mind as you plan your constructive conversations with your employees.
Behind every complaint, there is a request.
When clients, team members, and shareholders complain, they are addressing the symptom of a root cause. What is the issue behind their complaint? That is the real concern, and that is what our focus must be.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.
Ultimately, it is the leader’s job to help their team members grow and develop – and we cannot do that if we do not engage. But we must also keep in mind that growth and development do not take place if feedback is not received in the spirit in which it is given.
Ask yourself, if you were receiving the feedback, how you would take it. Apply the recipient’s perspective – their knowledge, experience, personality, and communication style they have – and consider how they are likely to receive what you have to say.
Separate the practice from the person.
Many people take feedback very personally. They take it as a statement about their identity, and some, even as a statement about their worth.
One great way to avoid this is to separate the activity or the attitude from the person exhibiting it. We are not our behaviour. Our behaviour may represent something about us, but we are not our behaviour.
Use language that discourages the practice, not the person: “that idea failed” instead of “you failed.” Empower your people; coach their choices.
As we lead our own team, there will be times when we receive feedback from others – our own bosses, our clients, or even our employees – and how we receive it will say a lot about who we are as a leader!
If you find yourself receiving feedback, consider these strategies to maintain the right perspective.
Respond with curiosity.
Often, our first response to correction or criticism is defensiveness. Maybe we feel we have been attacked off guard and we begin to explain ourselves, but it appears like we are shutting down.
Assume it is coming from a desire to help and ask for more details so that you can extract value from it. “What makes you say that? Can you give me an example or some context?”
Put yourself in the shoes of the giver.
Perspective, or our understanding that we lack the full perspective, allows us to respond to anything with empathy.
Ask yourself where the giver of the feedback may be coming from – what kind or constructive motivation they may have for giving it – and what specific situation they may be referring to.
Consider how you view the giver.
Feedback from someone you respect as a mentor is taken very differently from feedback given by someone whose motivations you are unsure of. This makes it doubly important to ask for details, as that information will inform your idea of and response to their words.
And above all else, remember this: Feedback is a subjective opinion.
Yes, someone may have more experience, may have done more research, may have more knowledge or expertise, but really, it is an opinion… an opinion delivered through limited perspective.
Entrepreneurial influencer Gary Vaynerchuk says,
“When you think about [the fact that feedback is subjective], that realization is actually quite liberating.”
Do you have questions about the feedback process? Maybe you have some feedback on these principles for me!
If you would like to get involved, join me and my colleague Madalina this Monday at 12 PM CET for a live Q&A session of Leading on Mondays. Click here and select “Attend” to get notified when we go live.
That’s all for now.
Until next time,
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