Categories: Career Help, Careers, Continuous Learning, Human Aspects of PM, Mentoring, Sharing Knowledge
By Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMP
“People reported to me that they had difficulties working with you.”
These were the words a manager spoke to me early in my career—and I haven’t forgotten them. I was very shocked to hear the feedback, as no one approached me about any grievances they had with me. Naturally, I wanted to know who said it and in what context. But the manager refused to give me many details. Was the feedback constructive? Not really. Was it useful? Absolutely not.
Giving better feedback helps you and your teams improve their collaboration and deliver better project outcomes. But all feedback is not created equally. You need to set the conditions for success.
First, feedback shouldn’t feel like top-down decision-making. There has to buy-in. So it’s important to talk through expectations with team members: How often will you gather feedback? How will you communicate it?
The conditions in which the message is conveyed also matters, especially for negative feedback. If it’s a face-to-face meeting, book a room to create a confidential and comfortable environment to engage in a conversation. The feedback must also be recent. Regular feedback lets team members apply lessons learned on the fly.
And there must be follow-up: If action items are outlined but no action is taken, credibility in the feedback process is lost and motivation decreases. As a leader, your role is to ensure constructive feedback is turned into reality.
Let’s explore ways to improve the feedback process:
1. Have a game plan.
One useful framework I’ve used is SBI:
- Situation: When did it happen?
- Behavior: What behavior did you observe? Share data.
- Impact: What impact did this behavior have on you?
Then finish with a proposal, knowing this is only the beginning of the conversation. Having a plan of action that remains consistent across all feedback creates a structure the team can adapt to and feel comfortable with.
2. Don’t escalate the situation unless it’s necessary.
When I delivered the first Samsung LTE device, I worked with a radio engineer with a reputation of being a difficult collaborator. Some colleagues recommended I escalate any issue that arose. But I preferred to meet him face-to-face in a closed room to seek out better ways to communicate. At the end of the project, he mentioned he appreciated my approach.
3. Speak up and don’t procrastinate.
A few years ago on a strategic project, I couldn’t get a hold of the expert. He was busy presenting to the top management and stakeholders in other countries. I organized some meetings with him, but I didn’t dare take up too much of his time asking questions. I also didn’t open myself up to provide feedback because I didn’t think it would bring about any improvement. When he left the team, I faced some long delays on the projects because I’d refused to make suggestions or start a meaningful dialog about what could be done better. The moral of the story: Don’t refrain from voicing your concerns or feedback when appropriate!
4. Don’t forget to provide positive feedback.
With 20 years of work experience behind me, I’ve learned the power of positive feedback and how it offers a self-confidence boost to team members and leaders. I now send spontaneous appreciation notes to recognize my team’s efforts.
I've also learned to accept positive feedback. Before, I would say “thank you” and quickly jumped to what I could have done better. One day, a colleague told me to stop, breathe and internalize the positive feedback.
Constructive feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, opens the door to a conversation. It sets you off on a rewarding path to self-discovery and self-improvement.
How do you give feedback on your project teams? Tell me in the comments.