August 24, 2021
Body language, microexpressions, literally leaning in - these are all things that help build trust faster when face-to-face, making it easier to give feedback. Take them out of the equation and you’ve got a case for misconstrued tone, misinterpretation and unwanted advice.
Like many leaders working from home, you’re probably struggling to share more critical pieces of feedback with your team, and understandably so. Stresses are high, screens are up and you’re left wondering what to say, if anything. So you put your notes aside and tuck them away for later.
But now’s not the time to play it safe. Because as leaders we all know, without effective feedback, career growth will stunt and success will stall.
Think holding back gives breathing room for team harmony and increased morale? Think again. Silence is the stuff that slowly kills your team’s learning culture. It also opens the door wide open for you to be respected less.
While you might have meaningful connections with each colleague that go past asking “So how was your weekend?”, just because people like you doesn’t mean they respect you. Getting your productive commentary from behind your screen to your team with impact won’t happen if you lean on being solely personable in the background.
So what’s a leader to do? Speak up and use your social licence to get your messages out. Your path to least resistance is simple: connect with and care for people to be liked, then dish out critical points and hard messages to be respected. Trust us, you’ll benefit most when you have both.
The best approach to push through any awkwardness is to turn feedback onto yourself. Open up and start by sharing things you’re working on or ask what topics you’d like to get others’ thoughts on.
Don’t forget to practice what you preach. Find small openings to share feedback regularly. Try doing 15 minute debriefs or retros after meetings or when a deliverable is set. Go over what you think went well and what could have been improved.
Expert tip: Make tough feedback about actions and outcomes rather than the person on the receiving end. By being specific on the work and its results, you’ll be better equipped to get your message across.
Clearly communicate that your opinion of feedback and performance isn’t what really matters. What does matter are the goals of each team member. By not adopting this philosophy, consider your feedback wasted. Chances are, they won’t value it.
To be truly effective at helping someone improve or grow, explicitly ask what they want feedback on and focus all your energy on that. To encourage openness, feel free to go first and ask for them to give you feedback. After all, role modeling how to accept feedback is the best way to offer it.
The world of remote work will never replace what the in person experience does for fostering critical feedback naturally. That doesn’t mean you can’t claim digital space to do it differently.
Yes, being remote does make sharing challenging topics harder and easier to shy away from. But biting your tongue during times like these will be to the detriment of your team who needs your guiding voice now more than ever.
Keep true to understanding why feedback matters, recognize the current environment makes it harder to give, and then address the challenge head on with your colleagues by your side.
"Meaningful, lasting behavioral change is a complex process, requiring timely personalized guidance. Startups like Valence (formerly Shift) provide teams with a fabric of interactive activities that emphasize mutual feedback and allow them to learn on the job while doing the work they always do."