Emily Marsh

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How peer feedback helps build better teams

February 19, 2019

Feedback is one of the most important tools for building great teams. By encouraging team members to give each other praise when things go well and pointing out how things could be done differently, you help each individual to learn and grow. And as each individual gets better at what they do, the whole team becomes better.

Many organisations will already be using a 360-degree feedback tool, where individuals are rated on their behaviour, skills, and competencies from those they work closely with, including their peers, managers, and leaders.

But people are starting to recognise that regular, ongoing, and open feedback is often far more impactful.

In this blog post, we discuss the benefits of team members giving feedback to each other openly and often, and take a look at how leaders can encourage this open dialogue.

The benefits of peer feedback

Ken Blanchard wasn't wrong when he said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. In the same way that a good breakfast supplies us with the energy we need to get through the day, feedback is the fuel a team needs to perform at its best.

Take a professional sports team for example. Perhaps no other industry employs open continual feedback to the extent sports teams do to improve teamwork and performance. Feedback gives people the insight to maximise their strengths and build on their weaknesses so that they can become more effective. And if each individual is more effective, the team becomes more effective.

Peer feedback also helps to improve communication within the team. The strongest teams communicate well and often; they share ideas, ask for feedback, and are happy to be challenged when appropriate. And this kind of communication is especially important for the modern workplace, where teams aren’t always sitting together in the same room.

If people commit to giving ongoing feedback, it means they can get little things that are bothering them out in the open before they become a problem. And if people know they are operating in an open work environment, they are less likely to be offended when they are given constructive feedback. People will understand each other better and there will be less conflict as a result.

Giving praise and recognition is just as important. Celebrating team success has a positive impact on the whole team, causing everyone to feel more motivated and engaged.

How to encourage teams to give feedback

It’s the leader’s job to encourage open feedback within the team. It shouldn’t be assumed that people know how important feedback it is - that message has to come from the leader.

Feedback is a skill - and one that the majority of people are not naturally good at. And people may be hesitant at first as they don’t want to risk offending anyone or damaging their relationship with others in the team.

To help develop people’s capacity to give feedback, start by introducing structured meetings to review how things are going; what's going well and what could be done better.

As people get used to giving feedback, it becomes easier to focus on how team members are performing at an individual level. Everyone in the team should be encouraged to offer their views on things they appreciate about other members and what would be helpful for them to do differently. But make sure team members understand that the focus should be on problems, not people. The idea here is to help people understand how their behaviour is impacting others and the wider effect this has on the performance of the team.

Team members can also give open feedback in a more formal way too, through tools like t-three’s Truth Teller. Like a typical 360-degree feedback tool, Truth Teller collects feedback from team members, but instead, feedback is shared non-anonymously. Truth Teller provides a safe, more focused way for individuals to have an open conversation with teammates about the feedback they receive from them. Using Truth Teller as part of things like annual reviews can help encourage more openness in the everyday working environment.

Teams that feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback are far more capable and cohesive than others who shy away from being open and honest with each other. As a leader, you can tackle any concerns head-on by educating people on the benefits of giving and receiving open feedback within the team, and by helping them find opportunities to practice.

Power of Feedback

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