I have always felt comfortable with change. To me, change is good. I see change as a sign of progress and something necessary in every aspect of our lives.
When looking closer to a professional environment for example, change is always present. Paradoxically, change is perhaps the one constant. One of the first persons who got this was Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE):
No man ever steps in the same river twice, For it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
Managing change is difficult because one will be confronted with resistance. That’s why it is important as a Project Manager to make sure the Project Team expects, accepts and embraces change. How do you do this? Build a high-trust relationship!
Indeed, it all starts with relationships and how to instill trust in your people. And how exactly is this done? Well, constructive and continuous communication… In other words: FEEDBACK! I’ll explain first how feedback can be an essential tool for promoting effective change and share some tips on how to give some feedback.
- Continuous feedback allows you to have a conversation and forge better relationships.
- As a Project Manager it allows you to provide your Project Team performance advice. In exchange you might get some really interesting suggestions about processes and such from your Project Team. It’s a win-win scenario.
- Continuous feedback also means continuous learning. Everyone can reevaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
- It all eventually leads you to a more performance-oriented culture: Learn from your mistakes, become self-aware and such. This all will lead to an adaptable, high performing workforce.
- It improves employee satisfaction, which improves engagement, which improves performance…
The next question you should ask yourself is: How do you give honest and good feedback to your Project Team? It’s certainly not an easy thing to do, but the next part will provide you some do’s and don’ts.
How to give feedback?
Giving feedback to your Project Team is one of those things that sometimes can make you feel very uncomfortable. We are worried about the reaction we are going to get. What if they deny the problem? What if this damages the existing relationship? A lot of what if-questions start to rush through our head. And yet we are aware providing feedback to your Project Team on a regular basis is vital to improve their performance, engagement and development.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of feedback and felt that it’s a common thing to use a flowery language when providing feedback to someone. I guess it has to do with human nature; everybody wants to be nice. Unfortunately doing so, one can fail to pass the correct message, whether it’s a positive or negative message. What I’m trying to say is that honest and critical feedback may be painful. But in the end, it will serve the needs of your organization and your Project Team much better than insincere politeness. That’s why you should have the following advice in mind when giving feedback to someone:
- Focus on the behavior, not the person: Keep a certain distance, be objective.
- Give specific examples: This is often forgotten, yet so important in order to fully understand the feedback.
- Describe the alternate behavior you desire: Explain how one can improve by giving tips, proposing a training, etc.
- Give the feedback in a timely way, and in private: It’s a personal matter, keep this in mind. No need to share it with others.
This advice is very classic and straightforward, but I think giving feedback can be done in a more forward thinking way: Focus on what the person needs to start doing in order to improve and not on what he needs to stop doing. This makes more sense and people will get less defensive in my opinion. Position yourself on their side and provide the help and tips they need.
Also remember this: A lack of good feedback actually means you don’t really have a way of defining where an individual, Project Team or project stands. Feedback becomes useless if it can’t be delivered in a way that impacts the person who is supposed to receive it. Both receiver and giver must be able to understand and appreciate each other point of view.
Basically it’s about being able to have a good and sincere conversation and not a debate. It’s about exploring the available information and issues with the intent to reach an agreement on what needs to be done. It’s simply about establishing a co-operative and collaborative mind in order to reach a mutual goal or understanding.
Although I could list you another dozen of advices I would like to conclude this article with this: The only reason to give someone feedback is to help them improve and succeed. So before you plan to have a feedback dialogue with someone, stop for a moment and check your motivation. It’s about them and their interests. Remember to build a high-trust relationship. Be human, be open and learn.
When done right, feedback can be a true gift we give our team and ourselves.