effective Teams Create trust and Actively Share Feedback
We know when leaders frequently ask for feedback from their constituents, they gain perspective about themselves that only others can see. This provides leaders with an opportunity to make improvements, validate how they are showing up with their values and beliefs, and engage in new behaviors that constituents positively respond to. Getting and receiving feedback is a powerful behavior for leaders to practice.
But what about teams? How can teams realize the same benefits, support each other and achieve more by providing feedback to each other? How can a team leader create the environment where the team readily, effectively, and vulnerably gives and receives feedback to each other?
Team leaders can create that environment by bringing the team together to discuss and learn how to provide this feedback. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, we learn how the actions of individual and collective team members – or, oftentimes inaction – lead to conflict, lack of commitment, lack of accountability to each other, and ineffective results, usually grounded in a lack of trust. If team members would just talk to each other – provide feedback – they’d learn how they can work more cohesively together (Lencioni, 2002).
Getting the team together is just the first step, however. The conversation needs to be intentional and action-focused. A very powerful way to do that is through a structured workshop, such as the Five Behaviors™: Team Development, developed by Patrick Lencioni representing the “flip side” of those five dysfunctions he wrote about in his book.
The workshop itself is very powerful but, in the absence of taking the entire session together, a team can 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 workplace, but also outside of work where they can get to know each other better by sharing feedback. One great exercise is to ask each team member to 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 allow team members to bring them to the team, then 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.
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 touch-base sessions or meetings to get updates on timelines and actions taken. Whether this is a team task – with everyone playing a part – or an individual on a team who has committed to do something, the team can learn how to provide accountability by providing feedback. If something didn’t happen that should have, the team should be talking about it rather than letting it “slide through the cracks”.
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. All team members are asked to provide feedback on each other. Most importantly (and often missed) is the celebrations of collective success. Make sure those are planned and intentional!
Asking for and receiving feedback on a frequent basis really is a game changer, not only for individual leaders but for every single person working on a team. Creating an environment where that becomes the norm for the team will undoubtedly lead to a team that readily, effectively, and vulnerably gives and receives feedback from each other and therefore engages each team member to work towards collective results.
 J.M. Kouzes and B.Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, Sixth Edition (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons 2017)