Organizational Consultation XXIV: Feedback (Part One)
Function Four: Team Building
Feedback can serve as a team-building procedure, provided it is appreciative in nature. Members of a leadership team can improve their teamwork by sharing evaluative data in a constructive, problem-solving manner. As Reilly and McGourty have noted: “a feedback report can be used as a starting point for a dialogue between team members regarding how they can function more effectively.”[vi] If the feedback being shared in the team is appreciative, then team members will also want to start a dialogue regarding the occasions when they work very successfully together. If they focus on their strengths and moments of effectiveness, then they will also be more inclined to work cooperatively with one another and build toward shared goals. They will identify the location of their shared vision (the thimble), rather than each member providing isolated judgments (“warm” or “cold”).
If the feedback that team members give to one another is only negative, then team members are likely to grow defensive. They will move away from one another and focus on their own individual problems or on those areas where their need for improvement has been publicly acknowledged. This doesn’t mean that negative feedback should be avoided; it only means that negative feedback needs to be set within an appreciative context. If the feedback is superficially positive, then credibility is lost and team members begin to feel manipulated. They often begin to view the praise offered by other team members as either condescending or thoughtless.
Appreciative feedback being used for team building purposes always involves the interweaving of positive and negative assessments. The strengths revealed in the positive assessment are used to address the problems inherent in the negative assessment. This appreciative assessment might focus on the performance of individual members or on the overall performance of the team. Individual feedback typically is not confined to the assessment of any one member’s performance; rather, it includes the sharing of perceptions among team members about each other’s performance. Organizational leaders can build an effective team by comparing perceptions of each other’s performance (see also Function Ten). If this feedback is given in a manner that evokes dialogue and inquiry rather than defensive game-playing then team building will occur. The process of 360-Degree feedback and the Three Tier feedback system, that I describe in a later essay, is particularly effective as a team building tool, provided it is appreciative in nature and paired with individual coaching processes.