Feedback is the breakfast of champions
Clarissa is a Project Manager, working of a mission critical CRM implementation for multinational real state organization. The project was troubled from the beginning: budget was tight, a new version of the product was being implemented and the pressure on the whole team was high. The rest of the “core team“, which had been involved with this particular customer for several years included Bruce (the technical lead) and Jacob (the key CRM developer).
Towards the end of the project, when the team was busy squashing bugs, Jacob was late for one of the monthly account meetings with the customer. Bruce, had already excused himself as he had conflicting appointments and Jacob was immediately put on the spot with a question about the technical implementation of the reporting module.He dismissed the question and went on a rant about the technical limitations of the product. Clarissa, in an attempt to wrap and salvage the meeting, interrupted him and said that they were going to provide the explanation via email
Straight after the meeting, she organized a private appointment with Bruce titled “Jacob”. During this session, Clarissa detailed the situation and went on a rant herself about Jacob and other “incidents” she never had brought up before. Bruce had one simple questions: “Have you talked to Jacob about this before?” and her answer was “No”.
Feedback is a powerful tool and it’s not just for managers. If you are having One on Ones (structured, regular meetings with someone in your team, not just a coffee once a week), that’s a great time to provide feedback on something that happened in the last 7 days. But timing is everything: too early and you might push the buttons, too late and the event might have been forgotten.
There are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to give feedback, even if the right opportunity raised. This could be personal, cultural, generational, etc. In saying that, there a lot of good guidance out there and the only way to get better is to practice it a lot.
I stumbled upon this article, which is an excellent summary on giving good feedback.
If you needed in depth information on how to use it and roll it out with the team, I’d recommend the Manager Tools. And if you haven’t heard of them before, I can't emphasize how good all of their guidance is.
On the scenario I described at the beginning, I’d recommend that the Project Manager has a One on One with team members (a regular, structured session that’s not a coffee every week). That would help to build rapport with the team and it would help Clarissa to feel comfortable giving Jacob timely feedback.
Feedback is a double edge sword: super powerful when used it correctly but damaging when misused.
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