Constructive comments

feedback is crucial, but so is how it's delivered


Feedback is crucial, but so is how it's delivered. Taking the right approach to giving feedback can mean the difference between teaching an effective lesson and upsetting a team member. We asked practitioners:


Stay Positive

“Giving feedback to the whole group is fine as long as no one is going to be embarrassed by anything said. Anything negative or that may be uncomfortable to discuss should be brought up in private.

It's very important to keep emotions out of it. If you're angry, then hold off from giving feedback. And remember the importance of giving positive feedback. Feedback shouldn't be given only when an individual or a team is doing something wrong. It's human nature to thrive on positive feedback.”

—Sarah Bell, governance officer, Ballarat City Council, Ballarat, Australia

Keep It Short and Sweet

“Giving feedback is at least 5 percent of my workday. I manage operations in six countries, so all of my meetings are via teleconference unless I'm traveling.

When you lead a teleconference, it's almost like a private talk show. It's about clarity, timing and awareness. In terms of receiving feedback, five minutes is about the most people can handle on a subject over the phone.

I really try to avoid rebukes during teleconferences. Although I've seen it done several times over the years, I'm really at a loss as to when that was ever appropriate or effective. It's just not nice.

The most difficult meetings are when people deny there's a problem. It's really hard to deal with that over the phone because it's hard to properly convey or interpret emotions when you can't see somebody. It's not much easier in person, but seeing body language and facial expressions help.

The bottom line is, just like meetings in general, you have to keep feedback focused and interesting. Show some enthusiasm. Be ready to speak and to listen, and be ready to learn what you need to lead and mentor the team.”

—Thomas Stalzer, CAPM, southern area manager, OPMAS-E program at Vectrus, Livorno, Italy

Fit the Feedback to the Situation

“How and when to share feedback is completely dependent on the situation. It's important to closely observe the employees who report to me.

For example, one of my direct reports—who himself manages people and projects—has had a lot of issues with setting priorities and often feels lost and exhausted. In this case, since he is a seasoned professional with considerable experience, my feedback style was more like friendly advice. During his mid-year review, I asked leading questions coupled with my specific observations, which made him realize the missteps he had been taking. The best part was that with my prompting, he came up with actionable items to tackle the situation.

Another employee—a junior—in my extended hierarchy has been performing well and looking for career growth. In this situation, I was dealing with a person who has four years of experience and specific expectations. I set up a formal meeting with him and his direct manager and prepared myself by gathering facts about his performance. I began the conversation by asking him to explain the rationale behind his expectations, while I took notes. After he finished explaining his thoughts, I shared my feedback, which included his path forward. He left the meeting satisfied and with clear, actionable goals.”

—Mohammad Salman, PMP, senior project manager, UnitedHealth Group, Bangareddy, India

Look Them in the Eyes

“From my experience, feedback is best provided face-to-face: It's a format that recipients respond to most effectively. I have received negative feedback in an open forum with other people, and the feedback, no matter how well intentioned, feels like an attack. Though such feedback is not meant personally, it does make people feel like they have to defend themselves, and this creates tension.

Tension can be exceptionally useful in the provision of feedback, but it should be directed with purpose. This doesn't mean tearing work or effort to shreds, but highlighting themes across the work that could be improved.

Praise, however, is an excellent motivator. For many, the public recognition of a job well done or a strong effort is a true catalyst. In a recent meeting, we paused to do just this. Group positive feedback is taking a moment to celebrate a success, no matter the size of the success. In an environment where success can be limited or overlooked due to various pressures, it can have a real impact. In this case, the mood lightened and actually facilitated quicker decisions on a variety of subjects.

A Work in Progress

Many people aren't satisfied with their organization's performance management processes. And that includes how feedback is given.

In Deloitte's 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, 42 percent of respondents had reviewed and updated their organization's performance management systems during the last 18 months. But there's still plenty of room for improvement.


Source: Global Human Capital Trends 2015

After all, feedback is pointless if there is no positive outcome.”

—James Louch, principal consultant, Pcubed, London, England

How do you give feedback? How do you prefer to receive it?

Share your performance management tips on the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group.




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