Getting the Best Performance Culture (Part 2)-img

By Caroline Creedon

Getting the Best Performance Culture (Part 2)

On a scale of 1-10, how much trust do you feel you have in your own team?

A key factor in helping nurture trusting relationships within your team is turning defensiveness into openness. Most people’s initial response to constructive feedback is to get defensive, it’s human nature. But what we can do as leaders is frame our feedback in a way that sets our staff up for success.

While we can’t control how anyone will respond, we can follow certain steps and strategies to help our feedback be received in a positive light. Let’s take a look at line theory for a minute.

When we’re giving feedback, there are certain behaviors that are “above the line” that we want to encourage, such as taking ownership, curiosity, and a desire to grow. Looking “below the line,” we have behaviors we want to avoid like shifting blame, unwillingness to learn or listen, and judgment towards others.

So obviously, we want our difficult conversations to stay above the line. But how can we do that when everyone responds to feedback differently?

Without further ado, Boldside Consulting brings us the 7 Fundamental Rules of Feedback:

1. Don’t wing it, plan it.

Get specific about what the actual problem is and what needs to change in order to

resolve it. Consider how you can help, what biases or assumptions might be influencing

you (is this a task conflict that’s turned into a relationship conflict?), and what outcome you’d like to see.

2. Avoid an ambush.

Don’t drop a feedback bomb. Approach a team member with a clear indication that you need to have a serious conversation, don’t just pop by and ask if they have time for a “quick chat.” That feels like a trap and they’ll inevitably get defensive.

3. Clarity over comfort.

Difficult situations can get confusing when you do things like downplay an issue, use inappropriate jargon to try to sound more “formal,” and/or imply that there’s a whole army standing behind your own concern. Be direct, open, and honest.

4. Disarm your defenses.

Break down the wall and acknowledge that it’s a difficult conversation to be involved in. Focus on having a conversation between people, rather than a “reprimand” from top to bottom. Show them you care about their performance and, most importantly, thank them for being open to feedback.

5. Body check.

How you say it matters. Your tone, body language, and expressions hold a lot of power

over how your feedback is received.

6. Shut up and listen!

Open the floor and encourage them to share their perspective. Take it in when they do.

7. Empathy is everything.

Filter your frustration through a lens of kindness. Remember, you’re all members of one team, and, with conflict and concerns aside, you want everyone to work well together.

Whether you write your own acrostic poem or jot them down on sticky notes at your desk, these are rules to follow as a leader. Now you might be wondering how you’ll ever put them into practice? We got you.

Here’s a great example of a problem you’ve probably encountered at some stage in your professional career. Let’s go back to our simple 4-step formula (if you missed it, click here).

Let’s say someone is a big micro-manager. Everyone on your team is fed up with the constant check-ins and overwhelming meeting schedules. The first step, as you’ll recall, is identifying the core concern. The concern isn’t broad “micromanagement” (which, let’s be honest, is a term that’s going to cause defensiveness no matter how you frame it). Rather, it’s a lack of trust.

The next step is giving concrete examples of times the team felt the supervisor overstepped – situations that led to this conversation.

Next up, demonstrating the impact. What is this lack of trust doing to the wider team? People are feeling discouraged and disengaged, and therefore aren’t performing to the best of their ability.

What’s worse is they’re now probably lacking in trust for their direct supervisors and perhaps even the company as a whole. Ultimately, this can create high turnover rates and low productivity results.

Finally, it’s time to take action. A good suggestion might be trust-building exercises.

It’s worth noting that regardless of the specific situation or conflict, educating the person you’re talking to on the impact of your concern is the biggest part of giving feedback. They need to fully understand how their behavior is affecting the bigger picture in order to feel motivated to take action and get on board with your suggestions for improvement.

Remember, you are the conductor of the symphony that is your team. It’s up to you to ensure all musicians are reading the same sheet music and that all instruments are in tune.

Next time you need to address a problem within your team, go back to the 7 Fundamental Rules of Feedback and map out your 4 steps before you sit down to have the difficult chat.

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Caroline Creedon

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