Encouraging Effective Behaviors in a Growing Team : Feedback

Vikas Joshi
May 10, 2011

Do the math. When you have a small team, you have 24 hours in a day to work with them, in the unlikely case you all work round the clock. The team doubles in size, and you still have 24 hours in a day. How does that impact the time you have for keeping each of them focused on the most effective behaviors?

In an earlier post, we reviewed the one-on-one (O3) meeting as a mechanism for regular communication that builds trust with directs, in a growing team. In this post, we talk about one aspect of O3 meetings that not all of us are very comfortable with – giving feedback - which encourages effective behavior in future.

Clearly there are two types of feedback. Positive feedback, which encourages observed behaviors, and adjusting feedback, which encourages changed behaviours.

The positive feedback is easy, but it does not come easily to all, so let's mention it here. When a direct does something that deserves encouragement, give positive feedback. Example: When you came up with that idea in our project meeting, it showed us a way to meet our timelines. Thank you.

Now, we come to adjusting feedback. Here, Manager Tools (the site I referred to in my earlier post) shows a couple of ways to deal with it.

  1. Cite the behavior and state the consequence. Example: When you show up late for meetings, it wastes everyone’s time. Just thought you should know. Now let the direct interpret that and decide where to go from there.
  2. The same as above, plus add the line: Can you do it differently? Or say: What can you do differently? Example: When you judge others’ ideas too quickly during brainstorming, they feel less secure and we miss some good ideas. Can you do it differently?Another example: When you bring a project in late, it makes us lose money. What can you do differently?

Notice that in both cases the format is nearly the same: When (behavior) here is what happens (consequence) Thank you / Can you do it differently / What can you do differently?

Auzenne and Horstman, the Manager Tools gurus, go to great lengths in clarifying that you must cite behaviors, not characterizations. Behaviors are observable. Characterizations are your interpretations. For example, ‘you show up late for meetings’ is a behavior, and ‘you are unpredictable’ is a characterization. So is ‘you are arrogant’ or ‘you are a nut’. Behaviors being observable, are undisputable. Characterizations being subjective, are disputable.

Can you see the difference between positive feedback and praise? Can you distinguish between adjusting feedback and criticism – or punishment?

Okay, so when do you give feedback? Three points to check.

  1. Give it when you are sure about the direct's behavior.
  2. Give it during O3, during your 10 minutes.
  3. Give it when you are absolutely sure you are not angry.

If you follow these simple rules, your directs will look forward to feedback (I’m serious) and you both will feel better after each meeting.