One of the most difficult things for a manager to do is give difficult feedback. This is a common issue with significant amounts of training/coaching provision and HR time given to it. However there is a sub genre of this issue that gets very little attention, in many ways causing even more difficulty when trying to build effective teams, and that is giving difficult feedback to members of your own peer group.
Many poor teams run on something called false consensus. “If I don’t criticise your methods you won’t criticise mine. Our jobs are difficult enough (especially with the boss we’ve got) without attacking each other”. This thinking is deeply flawed because it creates two things: a deep frustration with the lack of real conversations in team meetings; and, an active hidden agenda, with plenty of corridor conversations and coffee shop ‘just between us’ stuff going on.
High performing teams give peer feedback on the fly, as it happens, and because it’s done in this natural way it isn’t seen as a big deal, but as a valuable source of input.
An effective sports team is a good metaphor. All members know what they are trying to achieve, they all know what each others contribution needs to be and they all have respect for the abilities/specialisms the other members have.
In contrast, we often hear management/sales teams, even Boards, say, ‘we aren’t really a team, we just meet regularly; it’s what we do in our functions that really counts’. Then privately talk about problems in other peoples’ areas that need sorting out.
Being able to talk frankly and constructively about colleagues in a collective environment is something that can have a transformative impact on team functionality because it stimulates peer group pressure, the fuel of team performance.
For this to happen there are two requirements. Firstly, the team needs a common purpose with transparency around its objectives and personal targets. Secondly there needs to be mutual respect between people. You cannot have a value adding relationship, let alone a functional one, if you feel somebody else just isn’t up to the job or doesn’t share the same business values as you.