In my career I have observed that when I received a feedback and took it in the right spirit and worked on it, I had significant gains in terms of realizing my potential.
To build a cohesive team where the team members understand the strengths and weaknesses of each other and work on complementing each other to achieve a common goal, the stream of feedback needs to be uninterrupted. The role of the team leader needs to be that of a moderator who ensures the feedback flow does not become a stream of negative emotions against each other within the team.
Several factors contribute to dysfunctional intra-team feedback mechanism. Some of the prominent ones are:
1) The fear that the feedback will adversely impact their performance evaluation; this prevents team members who are otherwise close to each other to give honest feedback about one another. And there is no one better qualified to give feedback than somebody who is close to us.
2) The fear of retaliation by the feedback receiver.
3) Nobody wants to provide feedback to a person who is a bosses’ favourite; as a result the this person lives with his/her blind spots
4) At times the feedback provider feels that his feedback has not been acted upon and forms an opinion that providing feedback is of no use and nobody cares
The leader of the team can work on removing these roadblocks for free constructive flow of feedback using some of the steps below:
1) Encouraging feedback flow and building an environment that is safe for the employees to provide feedback on anyone including the team leader.
2) By working with each team members on building a development plan for the team member, based on the feedback received.
3) Building trust within the team that the status of the development plan will form the basis of the year-end evaluation and not every feedback that comes on an ongoing basis.
4) Weeding out feedback that are not constructive.
5) By closing the loop with the feedback provider. For example, if the feedback provided is not being acted upon, then the leader can go back to the feedback provider and explain that there are other priorities that the feedback receiver need to work on right now and he/she will work on the given feedback later.
For a team that has trust issues within the team members or a team that has formed an anti-feedback culture over a period of time, implementing the above practices can be a significant challenge. The team may need an external facilitator to form the correct norms within the team. The external facilitator can start with a well-designed workshop to get the team warmed up to the idea of giving and receiving feedback and subsequently work with the team leader for an extended period to fine-tune the feedback mechanism and maximize effectiveness.