From Confusion to Clarity: How Feedback Drives Team Performance

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Strategy and Marketing Lead
Jul 10, 2023

An essential skill for effective leadership is mastering the art of providing feedback that empowers your team to unleash their full potential. However, engaging in difficult conversations and providing constructive criticism can be challenging. 

One helpful way to think about engaging in constructive conversations is to consider it forest fire management. When trying to prevent forest fires, a wildland fire management team will organize controlled burns – intentional engagement – to prevent an uncontrollable wildfire. 

Giving intentional feedback is similar – it is the practice of addressing issues before they escalate into damaging conflicts. This approach invites conversation about concerns or problems proactively. By dealing with issues when they are still manageable, leaders can prevent the accumulation of confusion, misdirection, and mistakes that may eventually lead to emergencies.

As a leader, when you open communication and utilize a structured approach, you can empower your employees, promote growth, and prevent the escalation of issues.

At Integrity, we adopt a philosophy of overcommunication. We believe that the more context and information everyone has, the more successful we will be. In many companies, the specifics of management are hidden or unclear to the rest of the team. At Integrity, we know that if we want to empower our employees to do their best work, we need to arm them with transparency on how decisions are made, how the business operates, and create space for every employee to raise their hand to bring a concern, or a better idea, to the attention of the team. 

Inviting Feedback and Encouraging Open Communication

So you want to engage your team in constructive feedback, but how do you do it so your employees don’t feel defensive or attacked?

To foster a culture of feedback, leaders can take the first step by inviting their team to provide input. When the leadership team demonstrates a willingness to listen and consider others' perspectives, they encourage reciprocity, and employees become more likely to offer their thoughts and suggestions. 

This open dialogue promotes trust, engagement, and collaboration. When employees feel valued and heard, they become more invested in their work and motivated to contribute positively.

The Structure of Effective Feedback

Using a proven structure is one way to navigate the challenge of offering constructive feedback. Here are a few feedback structures to consider: 

Model #1: Daniel Pink's Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose Applied to Quality Feedback

According to Pink, intrinsic motivation is based on three key factors: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. So if you want to cultivate more intrinsically motivated employees, consider including his model in your feedback and performance measurement strategies.

  • Establish Autonomy: Give employees the freedom to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Encourage them to contribute ideas, solve problems, and make choices within their roles. Provide clear guidelines and expectations, but allow flexibility in accomplishing tasks. Trust your employees' abilities to navigate their work independently.
  • Foster Mastery: Recognize and leverage employees' strengths and skills. Acknowledge their expertise and provide opportunities for them to develop further and refine their abilities. Offer constructive feedback that focuses on growth and improvement. Encourage continuous learning and provide resources, training, or mentorship to support skill development.
  • Reinforce Purpose: Connect employees' work to the bigger picture. Communicate the organization's mission, values, and goals and how their contributions directly contribute to those objectives. Share success stories and celebrate achievements to highlight the impact of their work. Regularly remind employees of the purpose and positive outcomes their efforts produce.
  • Align Feedback with Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose: When providing feedback, emphasize how the employee's autonomy has allowed them to demonstrate their skills, make decisions, and contribute to the team's success. Recognize and acknowledge their mastery by highlighting specific areas where they have excelled, and offer constructive suggestions for further growth and development. Connect their work to the organization's purpose and its positive impact on others. Emphasize the significance of their contributions and how it aligns with their intrinsic motivations and values.

Model #2: Kim Scott's Radical Candor Model 

Developed by Kim Scott, Radically Candid guidance is feedback that’s both kind and clear, specific and sincere.

  • Establish a Foundation of Care: Develop genuine relationships with your team members. Show interest in their well-being and invest time in getting to know them on a personal level. Demonstrate empathy and understanding by actively listening to their concerns and challenges. Make it clear that you genuinely care about their development and success.
  • Embrace Directness:  Provide feedback that is honest, specific, and timely. Avoid sugarcoating or beating around the bush. Be straightforward and address issues directly, focusing on behaviors and outcomes rather than personal attributes. Offer feedback in a respectful and considerate manner. Avoid personal attacks or judgmental language. The goal is to promote growth and improvement, not to demean or belittle.
  • Encourage Open Dialogue: Create a space for open communication. Encourage team members to share their perspectives, ideas, and concerns freely. Foster a culture where feedback flows in all directions, not just from leaders to employees. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback and promote a culture of continuous improvement and learning.
  • Balance Care and Directness: Ensure your feedback reflects care and directness. Clearly express your genuine concern for their growth while addressing areas that need improvement. Offer specific examples to illustrate your input. This helps employees understand the impact of their actions and facilitates targeted improvement.
  • Follow-up and Support: Offer ongoing support and guidance after providing feedback. Provide resources, coaching, or training opportunities to help individuals address the areas of improvement. Follow up on the feedback to track progress and provide additional guidance or recognition.

Model #3: The SBI Model

The "SBI" model - Situation, Behavior, Impact - offers a valuable framework for delivering feedback. When giving feedback, consider the following elements:

  • Situation: Identify the specific circumstances or situations in which the observed behavior occurs. Understanding the context helps provide a complete picture of the problem and allows the employee to reflect on the triggers or patterns associated with their behavior.
  • Behavior: Describe the specific behavior exhibited by the employee. Focus on observable actions or words rather than making assumptions about their intentions or motives. This approach ensures that feedback remains objective and actionable.
  • Impact: Discuss the specific implications of the behavior in question. The impact can be categorized into four areas: time, money, energy, or fulfillment. By highlighting the consequences of the behavior, both positive and negative, employees gain a deeper understanding of how their actions affect others and the organization as a whole.

Following the SBI model, leaders can provide specific, relevant, and solution-oriented feedback. This approach shifts the focus from criticizing individuals to addressing behaviors and their impacts, creating a constructive environment for growth and improvement.

The Future Through Feedback

Giving feedback is one of the most critical and challenging aspects of effective leadership and team dynamics. By recognizing the importance of feedback, inviting open communication, and utilizing a structured approach, leaders can facilitate personal and professional growth among their employees. 

Remember, feedback is not about finding fault or assigning blame but rather a means to guide individuals toward their full potential. With great leadership, difficult conversations become opportunities for growth and development, leading to a cooperative, happy, and high-performing team.

If you want guidance in managing your business, cultivating solid strategy, or building a technological solution to take your company to the next level, we are here to help. 

We optimize and advance businesses by offering the technical scope and capabilities of a large corporation with the personalization, transparency, and approachability of a small firm. 

Integrity delivers successful programs for clients ranging from startups to midsize companies looking for growth to massive enterprise clients who trust us to work with sensitive data in highly regulated environments. 

For nearly two decades, Integrity has leveraged a winning combination of business and web consulting with technology to solve our clients’ most complex challenges. 

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