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Understanding great feedback isn't just about you speaking to one person. Individual feedback is the most common but we also need to consider the proper use of group level feedback. The focus of the two is considerably different. At the individual level feedback is focused on a person's work tasks, and helping them improve. It might be about actual tasks or personal behaviors, but in either case the goal is to propel the person forward. In contrast, group level feedback is about group interactions, group processes and group goals.
This is feedback about the collective entity designed to bring people together. Here's how I want you to think about each of these. Individual feedback is always needed. If you run a team with even three or four people, at least one of them once every day will likely benefit from some form of feedback from you. Yes, you have to spend time thinking through the message content, size, timing and every other issue we've discussed. But the point is that for a leader of a team, providing feedback is a fairly continuous process.
Group feedback is different. The benefits can be great. Increased clarity, camaraderie and connectedness. But at the group level, you want to supply feedback more sporadically. The reason is that unlike individual feedback, which poses little risk, group feedback can have more sizable risks, specifically, the risk is that people don't understand how to allocate the feedback across group members. And this can lead to false attributions. For example, imagine you have a team with six members.
The boss tells the whole group that productivity is done, and we just lost a big client. Exactly how much is each different person in the group responsible for what the boss just said? Well, everyone on the team might have a different answer to that question. And therein lies the risk. You say one thing to six people and they just might hear six different things. So let me give you a few quick ideas that will help you get the benefit of group feedback without much risk. First, never use false praise.
Don't tell the team they're doing good when they're not. No sugar-coating. You can be positive. You can encourage learning, but be straight with them. Your credibility is never more at risk than when you're speaking to the entire group. And they respect honesty. Worse yet, they can smell insincerity a mile away. When they should be praised, praise them. When they need to be told they're not doing so well, tell them that, too. Next, always remember to follow up with quick, small amounts of individual feedback. This might be face-to-face, or possibly by email or telephone.
This is how you handle the risk we mentioned earlier about misallocating responsibility across group members. For example, if the team needs and receives difficult feedback, but there's one member who was generally exceptional Follow up with them to make sure they know you're aware of their contribution. Finally, remember never publicly criticize individuals. They can call themselves out if they want to apologize or address their efforts. You can self-deprecate and make fun of yourself For the sake of learning, but never pick on an individual in front of the group.
You can address wins or losses, tasks and processes, the work we do. But difficult personal comments are always provided in private. Just when you think you understand what it means to effectively use feedback, you realize it's not only between you and one other person, but often between you and the whole team. One of the unexpected realities for new leaders is how much time is spent communicating as opposed to making decisions and completing actual work tasks. Feedback is a prime example. When you learn to balance the use of individual and group feedback, people will remain in the loop, have clarity about their performance and feel motivated to continue improving.
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