How do you give feedback to self-organizing teams?

Nothing is foreign to executives. You too feel before you reason. Think of that employee who is structurally late or that annoying comment from a colleague. That’s normal. Most people are first annoyed by behavior before they think about possible explanations. That’s exactly why it’s a bad idea to give feedback directly, because then you’re only letting your feelings speak. This is certainly true for self-organizing teams! In this blog I’ll tell you why. I also explain how you can tell employees in self-organizing teams what they should do differently.

Giving feedback: how does it work again?

Nobody’s perfect. But certainly in the workplace, an employee’s behavior can be so destructive that the team and the organization suffer. That is why you will have to call your employees to account every now and then. Ideally, you should do so without creating a quarrelsome atmosphere or making accusations. Although giving constructive feedback is an art, it can certainly be learned. If you follow the following three steps, you already have a good foundation.

Step 1. Only the facts ma’am!

Very important: give feedback based on facts and then say what the other person’s behavior does to you. So not: “You never dedicate yourself to the team.” But: “If I look at your timesheet, I see that for a few months now you have not reached the agreed number of hours. Because of this, I’m not getting the goals I set for this project done. I’m worried about you and I’m worried that I won’t get the project completed on time.” Also, don’t say, “You didn’t handle that well.” But: the accountability report is still missing input on three elements, therefore I can’t continue with the part I have to deliver.” This prevents discussion about who is right and whether the employee is committed. You can never win that round.

Step 2. Questions and checks

The second step is to ask the employee why he or she is working fewer hours, has omitted elements, or has approached a task in a certain way. After all, guessing at the cause is not practical. There are so many possible reasons why someone does or does not do something. The only way to find out the cause of someone’s behavior is to simply ask. Ask the employee if he or she realizes the consequences of the behavior. In this way, you make your complaint concrete and you don’t bring in things that have nothing to do with it.

Step 3. Ask, “How can I help?”

An important step in giving feedback is solving the problem together. Something has to happen! For example, you want the employee to be involved again, to do the agreed work and to achieve the goals. Therefore, ask the employee in what way you can help with the problem you had identified together. And start working on it – initially together.

An example

An employee consistently arrives at work at around 9:30, while the agreement is that everyone should start at nine. Every day the employee comes up with a different excuse for being late. As a manager, watch this for a week, but then intervene. Speak to the employee and state what the agreement is. Indicate that the employee’s behavior is negatively impacting the atmosphere and team results. Ask what the reason is for being late and keep asking! Then try to solve the problem together by asking the simple question, “What can I do for you?”

So how do you give feedback to self-organizing teams?

The above steps work very well in teams with a team manager. But how does giving feedback to self-organizing teams work? That’s a slightly different story. Employees in self-directed teams decide themselves about the “how” and thus make their own rules. That’s okay, as long as they meet the goals. But does an employee exhibit behavior that jeopardizes the collaboration or goals? That’s when you have to step in as leader.

For example, does an employee always come in at ten o’clock, but does he always achieve all the objectives(ecological, economic, social) and does the team not suffer as a result? Then a simple conversation will suffice. But if the behaviour affects other people and the company’s results, you have to intervene. That’s your new role!

Leading self-organizing teams: room for the future

Leadership of self-organizing teams is therefore about setting frameworks and letting go. This way you give the team members the space to achieve their goals and you can occupy yourself with the tasks on your plate, such as creating space for innovation and implementing major changes.

Want to know more about modern leadership? Then download the e-book “Leadership in the Economy of Value” below. Or
click here
for our leadership training courses.

Avatar photo
dr. Pim Valentijn

Do you have any questions?
Please contact us.