Use feedback to speak potential

If you ever had a leader who spoke about your potential you will never forget how much power that released in you. Therefore learn how to address the hidden potential in your mentees to grow your team.

“Now we speak of your weaknesses … hm … I should have said ‘potential areas to grow'”, my project leader winks at me with a conspirative smile. Someone must have told him that speaking of ‘weaknesses’ isn’t cool anymore – and therefore he needs to use a cover word. But the intention of his next sentences was clear: to show me areas where I fall short in his opinion. I hated working for him.

I guess, if you are around in business for a few years you know those feedback situations. You might even have learned in trainings to use cover words yourself and somehow work through feedback sessions – unsure what to say and how to say it. Or even convinced that this is the final day of judgement where you can tell your co-workers all the stuff you hate about them.

And then, there are those great people in businesses – real mentors who speak to you and afterwards you feel positive and stronger. Not because the content is only polished-positive but because they somehow speak in a way that you can actually use to grow.

In the past years, this monitored discrepancy made me wonder and search what feedback actually is meant for and how it can be delivered in order to see people benefit from it.

What is feedback?

By definition feedback consists of two attributes: Firstly, there needs to be an observation of something that happened – e.g. by a team member in the workplace. Secondly, this observation must be useful to leverage a change on it and therefore lead to improvement.

feedback/ˈfiːdbak/

information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

Dictionary

For example: A colleague sends out an important email to a wrong address. A useful feedback could be: The email was sent to the wrong address (description of what happened). You seemed to be under timely pressure and therefore you didn’t ask a colleague for review (sharing the observation). When you need to send an important email the next time, please ask someone for review (explanation of a potential improvement).

Feedback brings awareness to an area of unconsciousness. And by getting to know the information, one can get better.

Use feedback to light a fire

For sure, sometimes feedback needs to focus on behaviour that limits the career of a colleague. And by giving examples of their doing they are set free to change.

But what do you think of this perspective: Use feedback not only to state situations where a person failed but rather in which he/she has been really really excelled. There are a lot of people who outgrow themselves when you emphasize their strengths. Ask yourself: What does your mentee unconsciously do positively and needs to be pointed out?

Lately, one of my teammates needed to present a difficult topic to the client. We rehearsed the essential parts. Then the big day was there. She performed brilliantly on stage. Which I told her afterwards. But I did not stop there. I described all aspects of her strong performance precisely so that she could see why it was very successful. I even emphasized on her strength as a speaker and told her that I want to see her on larger stages and that she has a voice to be heard. She beamed for joy.

Another colleague of mine always did a great job but stayed somewhat silent in the overall group – you could almost miss that he was there. In feedbacks I emphasized on the very trustworthy results. Those results should be shown to others. They were proof of a brilliant mind. And we as a team would love to see more of the smart person behind the reliable work. Step by step the colleague became more visible and spoke about his contribution to the project.

Adress the potential!

In addition to giving feedback you can grow your mentees on purpose by getting to know their strengths. Here are some ideas: ask your people what they are dreaming about. What is his/her goal? Where lies the passion? Take some time to think: Is there any possibility for you to give your mentee a stage to live his/her passion? Here are some examples:

  • (1) Did you just hear that he/she likes to speak in front of many people? – Find a client or internal meeting and give him/her the role of the moderator.
  • (2) Did you hear a certain topic (that you are not familiar with)? – Find a colleague and connect them so that your team member can pursue his/her passion.
  • (3) Did you hear he/she loves to work alone on a difficult problem and find the solution? – Find a project in which that strength plays out.

Seeing people walk in their strength with joy and passion, lifts my mood. Therefore I always try to speak about the potential I see in people. Sometimes they are not aware of it themselves or they are unsure whether they are allowed to follow their dream. To give these people a special kick by a wholeheartedly feedback regarding their potential, is pure joy.

Try it, too.

How to have a great team meeting

Having sat in way too many boring meetings, I set up an agenda that involves all participants and makes our weekly meeting fun. Get some inspiration in this article.

“With you, guys, I can be honest. You feel like friends.” is one of the best sentences I have heard in my latest team meeting. Though we are basically a virtual team – seeing each other 4 times a year – we managed within a year through weekly calls to build a strong team that connects on a deeper level. Now everyone looks forward to our team call and leaves the 30 minute-talk laughing and refreshed.

While a lot of people might think that this was just pure luck, I know that there are certain principles that pathed the way for this team to evolve. Let me share a few of them with you.

Regularity builds trust

Setting the scene is essential for a great play. Therefore team building starts with some administrative stuff that frames your playfield. You need to decide, when does the team meet where for how long.

Find a day and time that is usually not booked in your company and when all team members are available without having stress to make it. In order for people to remember the last meeting and to get a feeling of regularity, I suggest to use a weekly rhythm. In that way people don’t miss too much if they are on vacation or on sick-leave. In addition, choose a length that is manageable: 20 – 30 minutes are totally enough to build a strong team.

Especially in the beginning of creating a team it is crucial to not miss one team meeting/call. Choose the timing so well and stable that it doesn’t have to be changed in the first months. As a leader you have to make that meeting your very priority. The people attending will easily feel whether you are committed or if you already skip meetings in the beginning. The regularity of that meeting/call already builds trust – trust in you as a leader that you are doing what you told your team. Trust me – if you skip a meeting in the first few month, no one will give you a bad feedback, but it will have a negative effect on your team building.

Congratulation, now you are set up and the game can start. Let’s have a look at the agenda.

Use the agenda for the right dynamic

What is the one thing everyone loves talking about?

Themselves.

It’s true. If people tell stories they usually talk about themselves. This is how we are made. We feel important and part of a group when people take time to listen to us. And therefore that component should be essential in your team meeting/call. Everyone gets the chance to speak and be heard because it raises the engagement in the meeting/call of every attendee. In addition, it helps your team to get present and be in the here and now.

Here is an easy way to start a meeting in which everyone is heard: Every team member gets 2 minutes to share their thoughts in the beginning about 2 categories.

  1. Work
  2. Personal insight

For the category Work you can ask: How was your week? On which project are you working? What is the latest update and status? (pick one question)

Questions in this category help your team members to reflect upon the week. They have a break in their hustle and ask themselves where they are at. Which such a question you give your people a platform to get present. In addition, that type of a question triggers the logical side of the brain and it is an easy start to share some thoughts because it is the main mental area your people work with on a daily basis.

The category Personal insight is much more creative and builds a balance to the logical question No. 1. You can ask: What was your highlight this week? What are you grateful for? What made you laugh?

These questions are also reflection questions but they connect to positive emotions. And those emotions are the glue that you need in your meeting/call so that people connect. Your team needs to laugh together. They need to celebrate successes together. These positive moments will create a team spirit no task can ever do.

You – the moderator of the meeting/call – are responsible for setting the scene. Explain the 2-minute-rule and ask the questions. Comment gently on each contribution – especially when you are in a call and cannot see each other. A nice “thank you” or “well done” creates interaction. Make sure you share your 2 minutes, too. It is very important that there is an equality between all attendees although you are the moderator.

With this start you have used 1/2 – 2/3 of the meeting/call. And that is totally fine. It is the most important part. In the beginning of your team meetings people will share high level information. Trust needs to evolve over time. But soon you will see that they are opening up. And seeing the team grow is pure beauty.

the Positive ending

After the contribution of everyone you can bring in all the admin-stuff and knowhow that needs to be shared. Whatever you or a team member wants to share stay in a 3-minute slot for each topic. You want a meeting/call as easy and light as possible. In the beginning the 3-minute restriction feels like a burden, but soon you will realize how much can be shared in that time without creating information overload.

When you head for the end of the call invest a little bit in positive vibes. Raise your voice, bring in emotion. Invest in the good mood of everyone. This has nothing to do with being fake – but as a leader of the call you are responsible to bring in a good laugh and joyful atmosphere. Trust me, everyone is more likely to come to the next call when they know they will leave the meeting/call with more energy than they attended.