Respect through Honest, Constructive Feedback

Posted on May 14, 2010

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Team Leadership, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Among the highest order of maintaining a culture of respect with our team members is honesty and the provision of constructive feedback. This is not just a hallmark of a good culture of respect, it is also essential for healthy communication in the workplace. Many a time, we, as leaders and managers, fail to provide feedback to our team members when we see them performing below expectations as we are uncertain of how we may do so while being tactful, avoiding conflict and hurting their feelings.

At times, we don’t quite know how to put it across, and procrastination soon get the better of us and we simply refrain from pointing out shortcomings. Other times, we also hold back with intentions to prevent conflict from arising when we address uncomfortable issues. We may also fail to point out the flaws of our team members when we are afraid that they would not take the well intended feedback in their stride and become upset about themselves about it.

As leaders and managers, it is crucial that we realise that despite the uncertainties in our hearts, it is still of essence to point out the elephant in the room, for the sheer purpose of demonstrating respect. The first concept is providing honest feedback, that is, to say things as they are. This is important in maintaining respect as it demonstrates your interest in resolving any of their shortcomings rather than secretly judging them negatively for the shortcomings.

The second concept is to provide feedback that is constructive. This means to say feedback that provides information to the receiver on how to improve. This is opposed to negative feedback, where the presenter of the feedback merely criticise the receiver, often in unpleasant and unless ways. This is important in maintaining respect as it demonstrates that we are interested in them and their development, not merely what they contribute to the team.

It is also critical that we do not hold back this valuable feedback as it is a rudimentary tool of communication. It allows communication between the leader or manager and the rest of the team in a solution oriented and diplomatic way. This is opposed to a failure to address problematic issues and allowing it to hamper the team’s progress. This is also opposed to taking issues out in an unfriendly manner, such as bad-mouthing or quarreling.

As leaders and managers, it is also our most fundamental responsibility to our team members to address the issues. We may think that holding back for fear of conflict is better for them, but being oblivious to the inconvenient truth is just not the best way to go for them. We may think that we are protecting them by refraining from sharing our views with them so that they may not be hurt, but realise that having this flaw uncorrected is what would truly harm them, and it is selfish to deny them this truth simply due a desire to be viewed positively.

Honestly and constructively delivering feedback not only shows our team members that we respect them and their abilities, it also allows them to improve and move on. This should be the goal of any transformational leader. From the team’s prospective, having its members constantly improving would only mean a higher productivity and better dynamics.

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