All the best-laid plans only last as long as the first domino falls. In teams, even one person lagging behind or feeling unengaged can pull the whole collective down. Needless to say, teams that communicate well have the best chance at thriving. Collaboration in teams is only possible if every stakeholder is ready to share and delegate effectively.
Author Brian Herbert nailed it when he said, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” Collaboration is no exception and feedback-aversion is a real thing. Sometimes teams can be put together, trained together and yet, when push comes to shove, just cannot work together. This presents a major challenge to managers.
In typical cases, problems like these are approached from a position of authority. It would be more beneficial in the long term if they were approached from a position of influence, if feedback were given in a manner that makes for easy absorption. Within the team itself, people may have really useful and constructive insights to pass on, but they choose not to say anything for worry of hurting someone’s feelings. This is not surprising. When being given feedback, people’s reactions can range from going on the defensive, to being conflicted between wanting to improve and wanting to be accepted as they are. This then results in the feedback becoming scattered and general, and of no real value to anyone.
Pixar has dived right into the issue and charted out a set of rules for delivering feedback.
Employees are encouraged to
• Be straightforward both in how they address a person and what they say about them,
• identify the particular behaviour that worked or did not work, and
• describe the impact of the behaviour on them and others.
Pixar designed a group exercise in which participants are asked to think of a time when they might have offered positive feedback but didn’t, and then write down what they could have said,following the three rules.
Next, they practice delivering that feedback and reflect on the experience. Recipients are asked to talk about their experience getting the feedback. In workshops, employees rephrase feedback statements till they get them right. Employees are also urged to add a “plus” to the feedback they deliver, in the form of a constructive suggestion.
In order to achieve great collaboration, it is important to learn not just how to lead, but also how to follow, and “flex” between the two roles as needed. To be an effective flexer, it is important to have self-awareness across three main areas: our ability to make sound decisions, our honesty, and our ability to get along well with others. It is also important to learn the fine art of delegation.
• What you can do as an individual: Read up on the correct methods of giving feedback and practice them with a trusted colleague. Be honest with yourself in evaluating your own abilities.
• As a business owner: Make feedback direct, specific and applicable. Delegate according to how you want to shape the strengths of your team over the long-term. Remember, the feedback you provide now and the trust you demonstrate will go a long way in building your team’s culture.
• As an organisation: Learn from other organisations that have successfully tackled this issue. Like Pixar, be honest about the reality of feedback-aversion. Arrange training sessions for new managers on how not to micromanage, but focus on getting work get done through intelligent delegation.
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