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Creating a Safe Space to Deliver Constructive Feedback to Teams

    Team Management Skills

    Constructive feedback plays an essential role in managing team performance and growing an organization or business through alignment. While providing constructive feedback is part of the daily operations of most companies, it is a task even the most experienced of managers battle to navigate.

    Just a few years ago, it was completely acceptable to tell employees or team members what they’re doing wrong without any thought or consideration about how that may make the person feel. If they reacted negatively to feedback, that was their problem alone.

    As time has passed, businesses have realized the immense impact that having unhappy or undervalued team members can have on their business success. More importantly, we have realized how having a team that feels both valued and happy can provide a sense well-being and positivity towards their work.

    It’s quite common that instead of providing feedback immediately, managers will put this on the backburner until an employee’s annual performance review. If most managers and leaders recognize that providing effective feedback consistently, on both what is going well and where improvement is needed, is a key team management skill, then why do so many of them try to avoid doing this essential task – at all costs?

    Why providing constructive criticism is so difficult

    Everyone is different. Each member of a team is completely unique in their own way, they have different thoughts, opinions, and triggers. The one thing everyone has in common though, is that being told you’re either doing something wrong or could do something better – when genuinely doing their best – may be quite disheartening. This is largely because people have been taught that being wrong, is a terribly bad thing – rather than the wonderful opportunity it is to learn, improve and grow.

    Another point of consideration is the rising numbers of employees with depression, anxiety, and triggers in the workplace. The last thing a manager usually intends is to hurt someone’s feelings or cause a depressive episode – which makes the desire to avoid these discussions understandable.

    However, avoiding these conversations in the moment and waiting for a performance review instead will have a much more negative impact on your employee’s well-being. Considering that you’ve waited for some period of time, the list of criticism has probably piled up and may make your employee or team member feel as though “they’re doing everything wrong”. Since they probably did not even know that what they were doing was a problem, the review session may end up feeling like an attack – leaving them disengaged and despondent.

    Team members who feel valued are good for business

    When providing constructive feedback well and regularly, you can ensure that your team members know what’s expected of them, where they stand and that their position and growth in the business is valued.

    It’s a proven fact that employees and team members will be more productive and perform better when they feel valued and appreciated. Another benefit is that you will create a culture of openness and good communication which is easier and more pleasant on every stakeholder and business process.

    On the other hand, employees or team members who feel undervalued can have a greatly negative impact on your present operations and future success as they will be disinclined to give of their best. They will lack inspiration, motivation and may even look elsewhere for a more fulfilling position.

    It’s for this reason that constructive feedback is an essential team management skill playing an integral role in managing your team performance.

    How does one create a safe space to deliver constructive feedback to teams?

    Build trust: The most important thing to keep in mind about providing feedback to your team is that they are more than a stakeholder in your team, they are human beings– treat them as such. Growing a good professional relationship is imperative, as someone you trust is someone you can feel safe with.

    Make an effort to regularly connect with your team, show an interest in their lives and states of being. As you grow a relationship over time, they will learn to trust you so that when the time does come to provide feedback – they are aware that you only have positive intentions of helping and not hurting them.

    Be prepared: Before calling anyone aside, ensure that you are ready to have a calm and open discussion. Avoid having any conversations in anger. Determine what your desired outcome and goal is for the discussion.

    This will help you to avoid criticizing someone’s character due to pent up emotions. Instead, you’ll be able to directly discuss the topic at hand and relay what your goals are – without making it personal.

    Go somewhere private: Never provide constructive feedback in front of an audience, this is a sure-fire way to elicit a negative reaction as your team member will feel embarrassed. Providing the feedback in real time is always the most effective, but it’s best to prepare the person by giving them a moment to prepare.

    When something comes up, consider asking them to come to you when they have a minute to chat. This way, they can prepare themselves – which will be appreciated and open them to being more receptive to whatever you’re about to chat about.

    Look at it from their perspective too: Before you tell your employee or team member what they did wrong, provide them with the opportunity to explain what they were thinking when they did it and why they did it that way. This step will not only help this person feel heard and valued but provide you with essential insight as to their thinking and where they may have gone wrong.

    Give regular positive feedback too: Just as you should provide your constructive feedback as an issue arises, also provide your team and employees with positive feedback regularly and in the moment when they have excelled at something. This helps them become more receptive to feedback generally, accepting it as a valuable contribution to their growth.