Getting better results with continuous team feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is uncomfortable for most people but offers great opportunities for developing higher levels of performance. By making feedback an integral part of your team and stakeholder communication you will complete the open communication cycle and avoid many of the pitfalls that undermine the success of a project.
Saving feedback to team members for their performance reviews vastly under-utilises its potential, while building feedback into your project communication approach will help you:
Manage team members from different areas of the organisation
Effectively integrate and utilise contractors and external subject matter experts
Shape team culture and behaviour
Foster learning and career aspirations
Keep people and activities on track
Resolve issues as they arise
Avoid schedule slippage
Avoid project failure
Be better prepared for formal performance reviews
Don’t overlook seeking and constructively receiving feedback for yourself, it is just as important. Helping you keep on top of emerging issues and allowing you to reflect and respond proactively.
"Effective communications leads to more successful projects, allowing organizations to become high performers completing an average of 80 percent of projects on time, on budget and meeting original goals.”
PMI Pulse of the Profession
Set yourself up for feedback success
Building a culture of open communication and setting a tone which fosters trust, involvement, clarity and flow of information, will provide a foundation for making feedback an everyday occurrence. With frequent practice it will get easier. Building rapport between you, your team, and your stakeholders.
Everyday feedback is about achieving business goals by:
Helping increase individual’s productivity or efficiency
Teaching or facilitating skill development and behaviour changes
Supporting individual’s ability to do their work
Finding the root cause of a problem
Encouraging good performance and progress
Learning more about an individual and how they work most effectively
Have a constructive approach to feedback. Avoid being a helicopter manager, expressing your frustrations, or falling into bias traps. Feedback must be appropriate and fair to be useful and effective.
Avoid succumbing to your biases
Your objectivity can be affected by your perceptions of a person. Take a moment before you give feedback to consider if your view of the situation is being influenced by any of these effects or biases.
The halo effect – a positive impression of the person affecting your judgment
The leniency effect – judging everyone in a favourable light
The severity effect – judging everyone harshly
The same-as-me bias – being more favourable to those like you
The different-from-me bias – being harsher to those unlike you
The first impression bias – the ongoing perception of someone based on your first encounters
Adapted from: Effective Feedback in the Workplace. Richard A. Prayson, MD, MEd J. Jordi Rowe, MD Critical Values, Volume 10, Issue 3, 1 July 2017, Pages 24–27.
Effective feedback practices for project managers
Feedback can be for everything from acknowledging good work to helping a contractor settle in to the team, supporting someone working on something new to them, or handling real problems. In any circumstances, some forethought and a professional approach to giving feedback will get better results.
Prepare before giving feedback to a project team member:
Be focused and purposeful, don’t lose sight of the project goals. Achieving the project goals is the context for your feedback.
Deliver feedback in a timely manner. Immediate for praise is powerful reinforcement and valuable recognition for the recipient. Negative feedback might need more preparation but should be given within 24 hours of the incident.
Think about where you provide feedback. Providing praise in public is fine, but problems need to be discussed in private. Choose a place which will be comfortable and help you have a productive conversation.
Consider what you have observed about the situation and gather information to get the most complete and accurate picture you can.
Check your perceptions for any bias and if your decision-making criteria are fair and appropriate. Don’t assume you have the whole story though.
You should be able to describe the issue, the impact, and what difference is needed using language that describes behaviour rather than criticising character – such as, you’re behind schedule, rather than you’re not pulling your weight.
Be clear about the result you want from giving feedback.
Giving feedback to a project team member
Set the scene, you want to have a conversation and encourage them to participate whether it is solving a problem or encouraging them to stretch themselves. Keep it relaxed and normal. Be careful about using commonplace phrases; starting with thanks for coming to see me would sound like a job interview or you thought they wouldn’t turn up.
Open the conversation with an outcome - I hope that after we’ve spoken … we will be able to get back on schedule or… we’ll have you on track to work on your next deliverable.
Describe the issue, the impact, and what difference is needed.
Then give them a chance to explain. Help by starting with an open question like – Can you tell me what’s contributing to the delay? Or Can you tell me how you will approach getting this stage done? Focus on understanding them, listen and ask questions. Recap what you understand they are telling you.
Raise anything else you have observed as part of the issue and get their perspective.
Work on solving the problem, together - let them know they aren’t alone. It’s great if they take responsibility for devising the solution, but their state of mind, abilities, and willingness to ask for help will vary. So be prepared to help and guide them to get the right outcome.
A constructive outcome will provide the team member with helpful and achievable actions they can take, a plan, help, or support.
Encourage them to be self-aware and reflect on their own progress and performance.
Set times or points in their progress for a check-in with them or add it to your regular one-on-one with them.
Then, make sure you’re interacting with them at other times for other reasons, so your relationship isn’t concentrated around the outcomes from your feedback session.
Getting the most from receiving feedback
Being open to receiving feedback can help your personal performance, project performance, and make managing your team easier. Remember, how you behave as a communicator influences how information flows around you. If you encourage sharing opinions and views, listen and pay attention, are responsive and foster participation you will build open communication with your team. In amongst your interactions with the team will be plenty of feedback. The issues brought to you and any unusual emotion or attitudes should make you curious and thoughtful. Is there feedback here for you?
You can also ask for feedback. This can help you resolve uncertainty, maintain alignment with your manager’s thinking, and give you an opportunity to provide them with information you didn’t know they needed. Being open to receiving feedback takes more than just a willingness to ask for feedback. These three golden rules will help you constructively receive feedback:
Don’t be defensive – listen carefully to understand their concerns. Avoid justifying or explaining yourself.
Confirm that you have understood what they have said to you and ask questions to clarify anything you are uncertain about.
Look for a solution with them, agree how you will proceed, and thank them for their help.
The value of feedback
Research by PMI found that 13.5% of funds invested in projects are at risk and that 56% of those funds were at risk due to ineffective communications.
Feedback is the vital closing of the loop in effective communication. Well delivered, timely feedback which is helpful and actionable will contribute to a culture of open communication. Providing constructive feedback on an ongoing basis across a range of circumstances, from the quick to more complex or the positive to the corrective, will make the feedback process more familiar and less daunting for everyone.
None of us can read other people’s minds. We all need clarity and detail to understand what is expected of us and how to contribute productively. In a project environment with contractors and staff who don’t usually work together, feedback is great tool to help weld them together as a team and support their work towards the project’s goals.
PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report - The high cost of low performance: The essential role of communications. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/the-essential-role-of-communications.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en
Effective Feedback in the Workplace. Richard A. Prayson, MD, MEd J. Jordi Rowe, MD Critical Values, Volume 10, Issue 3, 1 July 2017, Pages 24–27 https://doi.org/10.1093/crival/vax017
https://www.inc.com/stanford-business/how-to-get-better-at-giving-and-receiving-feedback.html How to Get Better at Giving (and Receiving) Feedback: Good constructive criticism takes practice. By Deborah Petersen Stanford Graduate School of Business