Creating and nurturing a healthy team dynamic should be a top priority for leaders. But, how do you know when you’re helping or potentially hurting your team? Leading a team is a challenge. You have to provide support, confidentiality, and discipline, as well as friendship, and a nurturing environment. You’re metaphorically spinning a thousand plates at any time, and dropping any of those plates can cause a domino effect across your team.
Feedback is a key “plate” that you must spin to ensure growth within your team, and mastering how to deliver this is key.
Helpful ways to provide feedback to your team
Empathy is your leadership superpower. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and connect with how they’re feeling can be useful when delivering feedback. Thinking “how will this individual react and how can I support them” is a key question to ask yourself. If you find that empathy is difficult for you in certain scenarios, make sure you’re still allowing that individual to confide in you so they still feel your support.
Feedback doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Praise is a great way to express positive feedback, whether this is in a group setting or one on one. Depending on your team's temperament, you may find that praise in a group setting has more impact in terms of confidence boosting, or 1:1 praise can equally have more depth depending on the nature of your feedback.
Sometimes, you’re going to deliver feedback that isn’t great. Let’s address the elephant in the room - no one likes to do this, but it’s a must if you want to be a strong leader and also equip your team with the right feedback they need to be successful.
But, you can do this in a way that is helpful instead of harmful. An effective way of doing this is by providing them with “negative” feedback and then asking them how they would solve the problem again based on the feedback you’ve given them.
It makes it less about what they’ve done incorrectly, and frames it up as a learning experience instead. It also reduces the risk of them feeling like they’ve been spoken at rather than spoken to and gives them an actionable takeaway from the feedback session.
Sometimes, feedback in a group setting can feel like a personal attack, especially if you have people in your team who are all at different experience levels, as well as different personalities. Private feedback is helpful because it allows that individual to express how they feel at that moment without any judgement, and also allows you to form a trusting bond with that individual. With sensitive feedback, you should try to do this in private for this exact reason.
Yes - encouragement is also feedback! It isn’t as black and white as “you did this well” or “you didn’t do this well” - sometimes it’s just words of affirmation that can go a long way. Try sprinkling this into your day-to-day leadership and use it as a morale booster.
Hurtful ways to provide feedback to your team
Although having a positive attitude is important, too much of anything can start to become toxic. The sickly sweet analogy that everything is great all the time, unfortunately, isn’t reality, and if you force this narrative upon your team and don’t allow them to have bad days, you can create a difficult environment for individuals to work in.
Instead, focus on leadership that is centred around embracing the bad days - and coming in the next day with a plan of how you can improve things. Don’t invalidate how someone feels because it’s “negative”, instead realise that we’re all human and we can’t be “on” 24/7.
Managing ego is your responsibility as a leader, and there will be individuals in your team who have an inflated sense of self in comparison to others. The worst thing you can do as a leader is feed into this ego and create a power imbalance in your team. A good way to mitigate this is through private feedback, and also ensuring that you are providing equal measures of feedback across the team, so it doesn’t disguise itself as favouritism.
Sometimes, there’s a time and a place for feedback, and delivering it unsolicited can feel like you’re attacking someone and not giving them anything actionable.
A great example of this is if a team member is already having a bad day, and instead of leaving your feedback to be delivered in private, or at another time, you are giving them real-time, unsolicited feedback which unfortunately adds fuel to the fire and can diminish their confidence. Also, something as simple as asking someone “can I give you some feedback on this now or would you prefer to talk about it later?” can also be helpful.
And finally, make sure that you’re also comfortable receiving feedback as much as you are giving it. To grow as a leader, you must create a space where your team can also give you feedback so you can improve and learn from them. Practice what you preach, and keep those plates spinning!
For more information on sustaining an inclusive culture, check out our free D&I handbook, available to download now.