The need for feedback is everywhere, not just as a manager but as a team player or plainly, in every space we inhabit. Markets and service industries rely heavily on customer feedback to expand their base, and also improve products and services.
How does feedback figure in the development space, one would ask?
For teams that work in organisations like ours, we find a varied set of determined people around. Teams often comprise people who are involved in ideating and conceptualizing projects, to those who implement on the field and assess effectiveness. It also covers those who are external to the organization- consultants, part-time staff associated with the project, interns, volunteers and even vendors- who are essential in getting the project together.
Clear and appropriate communication thus becomes the key to getting high quality and impactful work done. When team members communicate with clarity- whether it is decisions, instructions or do’s and don’t’s, we set the expectations and the work culture.
In a workplace setting, feedback is not to be considered as a one-way street, i.e. from managers to reportees, but across all the possible web of people we interact with, and back to us.
What to remember while sharing feedback?
The first step to remember when you are giving feedback is to be introspective. Drop judgements and zoom out from the frame you are used to. Step back and think of the person’s skillsets, performance, and behaviour in isolation and as a team member.
For a feedback session to be effective, you can follow the guideposts given here:
1. Be Genuine & sensitive
Keep the space open for a conversation to happen. Make it sound natural and genuine, without any force. Ensure that you maintain a polite stance throughout the conversation. The words you choose to articulate yourself should be carefully considered, yet maintain an easy flow. Avoid using accusatory language or tones.
To make it richer, share examples from your own experience or someone they know. It helps to give a perspective to the feedback and how they could incorporate small changes in behaviours or skills.
2. Use appropriate body language
It is important to make eye contact to establish trust and transparency in the discussion. Keep an open stance, face the person while talking to them, and partially lean forward. Make this a non-threatening safe space for both of you to share. These are nonverbal cues that could make someone comfortable and for you to hold space.
3. Share what is positive first
When you begin by saying what is positive about a person, they naturally become more attuned to listening. So even if you follow it with critical feedback, you would have caught their attention. Start with sharing what has been going right with them, spend time thinking and noting down the key skills/behaviours which are worthy of complimenting and let them know how their work is contributing to the larger project or organisation goals.
Positive feedback fosters integration, wholeness and improves confidence, concentration and positive feelings. People feel valued when their work gets recognised and appreciated.
4. Establish expectations
State clearly why this feedback session was needed, and what is expected of the person in terms of roles or behaviour. Especially when you want to share critical feedback, it helps to note down what you’d like to share. Writing beforehand gives you the freedom and time to reflect on the possible follow up questions you may have to respond to. It also helps you manage and keep emotions in check.
5. Timely and Specific
Feedback should not be delayed. Prioritise sharing feedback through regular check-ins with the person. Be as clear as possible and to the point. It can be easy to beat around the bush and not address a problem, but if you want solid results, being specific helps. Share the context and address the areas of concern/which need attention.
Wind up by offering an open space for them to share their response to the session.
Written by Sameen Almas, Associate Director at NalandaWay Foundation with inputs from an internal NalandaWay discussion and this article. Sameen has managed multistakeholder large-scale projects in her current profile and previous roles. She actively works on nurturing teams and believes in a fine balance of professionalism and empathy.