Giving and Receiving Feedback – A Process for Growth

Use Feedback as a Teaching and Development Tool

Frequent and specific feedback is critical to learning. It’s even more important than when you’re coaching an intern, new employee, or employee with performance issues. Depending on the length and intensity of the training needs, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly scheduled feedback is necessary for growth and development. Don’t underestimate the power of impromptu, positive feedback as you notice your intern/employee doing work or behaving in a way that meets or exceeds your expectations. Catching someone doing the right thing is far more effective than jumping on errors.

When corrective action is necessary, use this quick process to make sure your feedback is focused on the development of your intern’s/employee’s skills.

  1. Begin by describing the behavior you’d like to see. How should the report look? How does a professional employee act and dress?
  2. Follow up with the behavior you have observed. Try filling in the following sentence(s), “I’ve noticed ________ and it’s important to ____________ because it will help you _____________.”
  3. End by discussing (not prescribing) how to bridge the gap between what you’d like to happen and what you have observed. Make sure to include the intern/employee in the problem solving by asking for input.

It’s also important to open yourself to feedback. Coaching your intern/employee to learn to give feedback is as valuable as teaching them to receive it. Modeling the appropriate behavior is essential.

  • Listen without interrupting and without defensiveness. Take the opportunity to receive feedback as a growth opportunity for yourself and your business.
  • Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Guide the intern toward the example above. What did the intern expect to see and why? What did the intern observe?
  • Discuss what could account for the gap.
  • Thank the intern for providing feedback.

As managers and business owners we often develop tunnel vision. Using a clear process to coach an intern or employee is a great way to encourage an open flow of communication. Who knows what heights you’ll reach with a new set of eyes.


Building Virtual Teams

Virtual  Teams and Global Teams: What’s the Difference?

Virtual teams or geographically dispersed teams (GDT) share commonalities with their global cousins, but there are also some significant differences that can affect the success of the team.

Similarities between the teams:
When setting up virtual teams, there are some things both domestic and global teams need to be successful.
Pick the right people: go for diversity in specializations, but remember that virtual team members will have multiple reporting lines. Virtual team members must be open to new experiences.

  • Choose the right technology: it’s critical to recognize that work is done by people, not technology. Virtual teams are managed by people and mediated by technology, not the other way around.
  • Start the team off right: define the team’s purpose and vision, set specific processes for common understanding, and begin by building relationships before jumping into tasks. The team will need clear goals for work and productivity. Although a facilitator could be used to further these objectives, it’s important to train the team for self-facilitation for success in the long-run (Briggs, 2009).
  • Gain commitment: make sure all team members understand their roles and responsibilities. It’s important that when virtual teams work together, there is a sense of presence. Maybe using photos for the people who are online, or some video and/or audio communication. Another important factor is to ensure to align reward systems (Briggs, 2009) to the new method of work. Consider a combination of team and individual rewards for goals met.
  • Develop a rhythm of communication: the expectations of when and where to communicate provide some predictability in an otherwise unpredictable project. Communication also the primary way to build trust in virtual teams, an often difficult objective.

Developing trust is difficult when you don’t know your team mates, haven’t met them, and don’t actually see them work. Managing global teams adds another layer of complexity.

How global teams differ:
Symons and Stenzel (2007) in their article “Virtually Borderless: an examination of culture in virtual teaming” for the Journal of General Management identifies incremental challenges that global teams face.

  • Technology: considering global teams must rely on technology to mediate tasks, it’s important to be aware of the differences in technological connectivity and infrastructure in other countries. Note also that highly relationship oriented cultures (vs. task oriented like the U.S.) might first resist the use of technology to work across borders. This difference does reinforce the need to pick the right person. Even in relationship oriented cultures there may still be people that would jump at the opportunity.
  • How leadership is expressed: this factor varies among cultures as well. Cross cultural conflicts are inevitable on global teams, making the leaders, or facilitator’s ability to value diversity and show cultural competence a must on global teams. Although some leadership behaviors, like “dynamism, decisiveness, and honesty” (Stenzel, 2007, pg. 4) are common to most cultures, some attributes, like “ambition, formality, risk-taking and self-effacement are valued in some cultures but not others (Stenzel, 2007, pg. 4). The role in leadership for building trust is pivotal, so not adapting to these difference could cause team failure.
  • Intercultural Competence: when working on global teams it’s important to note that national and functional cultures are stronger than organizational cultures, however, corporate culture can predispose team members to work better cross-culturally, and therefore, place a big part in the success of global teams. It’s critical that all team members understand the dimensions of cultural difference so they are armed with strategies and self-awareness techniques to resolve intercultural conflicts.

As a final thought on what it takes to be successful in global teams, I’d like to leave you with this list from Mary Jane Westerlund (2008), a global team leader. Global team members need nine essential qualities (pg. 35):
1. Adaptation skills
2. Attitude of modesty and respect
3. Understanding of the concept of culture
4. Knowledge of the host country or other cultures
5. Relationship building
6. Self-knowledge and awareness
7. Intercultural communication
8. Organizational skills
9. Personal and professional commitment
These qualities enable team development in any realm, but definitely in global teams and team development plays a critical role in the success of virtual teams both domestically and globally.

Briggs, R. N. (2009). Principles for effective virtual teamwork. Communications of the ACM , 52 (4), 113-117.

Stenzel, C. a. (2007). Virtually borderless: an examination of culture in virtual teaming. Journal of General  Management , 32 (3), 1-17.
Westerlund, M. (2008). Superperformance in a remote global team. Process Improvement , 47 (5), 32-37.

Benefits of Process Interventions


Group Process: Wait…don’t groan

That’s right, another lecture about working well in groups. Why so many? It’s simple, groups done well turn to teams, and teams can get more done, and better, than a group of individuals. There are three factors of working in teams that affect the quality of performance: what the team does (task), how the team does it (process), and productivity (Herold, 1978). All three legs of the stool must be solid in order to perform at a high level that creates a strong business culture, opportunities for the business, and career success. Process interventions ensure that the team is able to realize these benefits through quality task and process alignment.

Recipe for quality teams

Empowerment: Involve team members in planning and strategizing how to get the job done. Understanding that learning must precede change, called the Universal Change Principle, is the first step in dissolving resistance to change (Lick, 2000).

Synergy: The magic that turns a group of individuals into a team is called synergy. Teams with synergy have a culture and pattern of interaction all their own. According to Lick (2000), “Members of a synergistic…[team] inspire and energize each other, and the openness and diversity of perspectives create new ideas, knowledge, and problem-solving potential” (pg. 46).

Trust: Is essential for team success. There is a fear of failure that compels teams toward success (Glassman, 1975). Trust in your teammates builds confidence in the completion of tasks, the team process, and the outcome. In other words, trust affects the quality of all three legs of the stool.

Interaction: Promoting both formal and informal opportunities for interaction encourages the development of trust and synergy and team members express their empowerment through advocating for their ideas. This ingredient, effective interaction, is often where groups struggle during when navigating more socially complex tasks (Herold, 1978). It’s a common entry point for process consultations by O.D. professionals. When teams interact and communicate well they grow and evolve to higher performance.

Derailing effective teamwork

These symptoms indicate a need for process interventions as they can derail team cohesion.

Jockeying for position: When groups lack trust and a common vision, members jockey for formal status (Glassman, 1975) preventing the formation of an effective team. Rotating leadership responsibility or restructuring the team’s reporting process might be in order.

Finding a common scapegoat: Has your group every complained about that “one person” that, if gone, would make everything better? This type of behavior indicates the group has identified a common scapegoat, or one person to blame for all the inefficiency in the group process (Glassman, 1975). Rarely is one person responsible for the group’s ills. Instead, the group’s inability to form a team can be linked to issues of empowerment, trust, and interaction.

Often different expectations between consultant and client can lead to ineffective processes. Plan your team’s workflow to include empowerment, trust, and interaction to create synergy that will make your team a source, not for groans, but for cheers.


Glassman, A. (1975). Team consultation: a revealing analysis. Academy of Management Proceedings , 116-118.

Herold, D. (1978). Improving the performance effectiveness of groups through a task-contingent slection of intervention strategies. Academy of Management Review , 3 (2), 315-325.

Lick, D. (2000). Whole faculty study groups: facilitating mentoring for school-wide change. Theory Into Practice , 39 (1), 43-49.

What the Email Etiquette Sites Won’t Teach You

How much time do you spend trying to think of what you’ll say? Most Americans spend the time they should be listening thinking about their next move or their next argument. We’re so focused on ourselves, that we forget the most important part of communication – the transfer of meaning. Author John Reh’s article (n.d.) titled “Getting My Point Across” ( states that it’s more important to concentrate on what you want the other person to hear vs. what you want to say.

How can you possibly control that; you might wonder. After all, I tell my kid not to bounce the ball, and all he hears, is “bounce ball.” This example goes to show that crafting your message is crucial. What if I’d said, “take the ball outside.” With this message, considered from my listener’s point of view, I might get better results because I know my listener, my kid. Any excuse to go outside and he’s there. The process is not that different when you are talking to peers.

First, get to know them. Consider his or her communicating style preference. Does he prefer a lot of facts; is she the type that wants you to get to the bottom line; should you start with a question about the family; do you need to start out with an attention grabber? These styles are four buckets that fit the general tendencies of most people.

Second, what channel will you use? Contrary to popular culture, email and text are not the best ways to get your meaning across, but they are the easiest. Opt for as close as you can get to face to face whenever possible so that you can add important no-verbal signals to your words. That might be Skype, the phone, or the good old fashioned walk over to the desk method.

Finally, communicating with others is not about proving you’re smart, it’s about being smart. Don’t use “big words” or jargon to show off what you know. If you are talking to the accounting department, don’t use acronyms common to your work in marketing. Be straightforward and say exactly what you mean. I call this the, “Get in and get out” method. If I mean sales are decreasing every three months, that’s what I’ll say. If I’m unhappy with the response time from shipping I’m not going to spout policy and jargon. I’m going to say that I want to work with shipping to improve response time so we can keep our customers happy. As Reh (n.d.) says in his article, “If you want your service department to handle more calls per day, tell them that. Don’t tell them they need to “reduce the time interval between customer-interface opportunities” (para. 7). Get in, get out, done.

Step outside your head and see from the perspective of your audience to be more successful in transferring your message.