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effective Teams Create trust and Actively Share Feedback
When leaders frequently ask for feedback from their constituents, they gain perspective about themselves that only others can see, enabling them to make improvements, validate how their values and beliefs show up, and engage in new behaviors that constituents positively respond to. Getting and receiving feedback is a powerful behavior for leaders to practice that becomes even more critical during times of change and disruption.
Just like individual leaders, teams can also support each other and achieve more by providing feedback to each other. A team leader helps create the environment where the team readily, effectively, and vulnerably gives and receives feedback to each other.
Team leaders can encourage communication and trust by discussing and learning how to provide feedback to each other. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, we learn how the actions or inaction of team members leads to destructive conflict, lack of commitment, lack of accountability to each other, and ineffective results.
But how can teams focus on communication and trust now, especially when many teams are working fully remote for the first time? Start practicing feedback within the context of each of those five behaviors in a few ways.
Trust One Another Through Sharing.
A cohesive team knows that without trust, nothing else can really get done. To build trust, each team member needs to be genuinely transparent and honest with each other. Easily said but not that easily done, especially where lack of trust is deep. So, here’s a feedback action to take with your team:
Make sure the team has an opportunity to interact not only in the context of work, but also as human beings where they can get to know each other better by sharing feedback. One great exercise is to have a non-work related video conference meeting where team members share a little about their personal history and then ask all other team members to provide feedback on that story – what it meant to them, how they had a similar story, etc. Yes, this puts each member of the team into a vulnerable position – that’s the strongest type of trust.
Engage in Conflict and Provide Feedback Around Ideas.
Welcome new ideas and when team members bring one to the team, talk about it. Have the “owner” present and ask all other team members to only ask questions instead of responding. Questioning as a form of feedback creates dialogue and healthy debate and allows each team member to be involved in the discussion. host this dialogue over a video call where each person can see others and provide undivided focus to the discussion at hand.
Commit to Decisions Through Feedback.
When team members are able to provide feedback whether through questioning or statements, they are more likely to commit to decisions. Let’s be clear, committing is not necessarily agreeing – but when they have an opportunity to let their voice be heard, they feel more comfortable committing to something even when they might not necessarily agree with it. Here’s an action to help integrate feedback into the process of committing:
Once a decision is made, go around to each team member one more time and allow them to provide any additional feedback. Not for further debate, but to gauge the level of commitment. You’ll be surprised how many team members are willing to move the decision and action forward.
Hold One Another Accountable Through Feedback.
When everyone is committed to a decision and the needed actions to make it happen, they will be more willing to hold each other accountable. Here’s an action to ensure feedback is part of that:
Schedule and hold regular check-ins to get updates on timelines and actions taken. If something didn’t happen, the team can talk about it and provide feedback rather than letting it “slide through the cracks”. It's easier for things to slip when your team is adjusting to new working circumstances, balancing life and work differently, and adapting to less face-to-face interaction. By setting a designated meeting time to discuss important projects and actions, it presents the team with an opportunity to continue to hold each other accountable.
Provide Feedback on Collective Results.
The ultimate goal of building trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: achieving results. Here’s how feedback and results go hand in hand:
Provide feedback through an “after-action review” with the team that is scheduled and expected to occur at the close of the project or initiative. Have all team members provide feedback on each other – both positive and constructive. Most importantly (and often missed) is celebrating collective success: Make sure to plan intentional gatherings with your remote team! If you're celebrating from afar, it's a great opportunity to get creative in recognizing others for great work. As the team leader, you could send handwritten notes or small gifts via the mail to recognize a job well done.
We count on our teams to help power our organizations through turbulence and change. The virtual environments many of us find ourselves in right now won't stop us from improving communication and trust. Asking for and receiving feedback on a frequent basis really is a game changer for every single person working on a team.
 J.M. Kouzes and B.Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, Sixth Edition (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons 2017)