Ask the Expert: June'07

1. I lead a team of 5 people and I feel giving my team members feedback on their work can help improve the effectiveness of the team. But I am not sure how to do it the right way. So far my experience of giving feedback especially negative one has not been too good.

You are absolutely right; feedback can improve performance of team members which in turn will improve the effectiveness of the team as a whole. By giving negative feedback in a constructive way you can ensure that your feedback is meaningful to your team members. Some guidelines for that are:-

  • Be specific than general. “You made a good presentation” is general. “You managed the audience questions well” is specific.
  • Describe behavior only, do not interpret/evaluate. “You did not complete implementation as per schedule and delayed it by a week” is descriptive vis-à-vis “You are irresponsible” which is evaluative.
  • Provide feedback immediately after the occurrence of behavior.
  • Be focused on behavior that team member can change.
  • Do not mix negative and positive feedback. Examples of both are:-
    • Mixed:  “You did the project well, but you did not take any initiative to try out things.”
    • Unmixed: “On the positive side your project execution was good. You did it with no customer complaints. In the areas of improvement, you need to work on conducting handover training to the satisfaction of the users.”
  • Stimulate suggestions for improvement.
  • Stop if emotional issues surface and deal with them.


2. I know it is not right, but I am jealous of my colleague who is my competitor at work. How can I deal with this?

Being envious of others is a natural reaction and helps in pushing ourselves further to do better. But getting jealous about it and as a result creating negative energy in you is not helpful. It is a good thing that you are aware that it is not a helpful emotion.

Write down what makes you jealous of the colleague. Write down your own accomplishments.  Question yourself – “Are you working smart and hard?” “What behavior of your colleague is bringing him success?” “Are you leveraging your skills, and exceeding your targets?” With some self reflection you will be able to chart out a plan on what needs to be done for you to become as successful as your colleague.

If your colleague succeeds does not mean you cannot succeed. There is enough work and opportunities for everybody to do their bit in today’s corporate world as long as you are willing to work for it. Use all the energy spent in being jealous to do more and better at the work place. Also getting to know the person better may make you realize he/she is just like you and that you could actually be friends and learn from each other.


3. Two of my team members do not get along with each other and this is creating a lot of negative energy in the team. Shifting one of them to another team is not an option right now. As the team leader can I do something?

Yes, you can definitely take some steps to improve the situation.

  • As a first step analyze their recent conflicts, take inputs from their peers, and understand the dynamics at play.
  • Then individually counsel the two people involved them. Let them know how their conflict is affecting the team. Tie issues to business results so you focus on events or behavior not on personality traits. Even if people do not get along they can still work together effectively. Understanding reasons for their not getting along will help. Talk about what you have observed or know has happened, not about something someone else heard or saw.
  • Next step would be to set up a joint problem-solving approach to resolve the conflict.
    • Ask the team members involved to present their view points objectively.
    • Get agreement from them on the problem that needs to be solved. Say things to make them feel you want to solve the problem, not lay the blame. Have each of them generate possible solutions.
    • Get commitment on what each team member will do to solve the problem.
    • Summarize and set a follow-up date to make sure they are working together effectively.