Project Practitioners > Giving feedback, a powerful tool for the project manager

Giving feedback, a powerful tool for the project manager

By Alfonso Bucero

Are you giving feedback to your team members and other project stakeholders when managing a project?

Are you receiving feedback from them?

I know some project managers confuse feedback with criticism, and assume all feedback is negative in essence. We need to give positive and negative feedback when we consider it is needed. We, as project managers, need to obtain the best from our people.We are suposed to be the leader and as a leader we need to facilitate the achievement of great project results through our people. 

Why not using feedback to maintain a fluent, clear and concise communication level among your team members and other project stakeholders?

Every team member in your project need your feedback, but also you need some feedback from them. "We can not see our neck", you always need somebody else that can give you more information; and other point of view about what you thought was correct. In my professional career I always ran feedback sessions every week with my team members and also with my project sponsor. At the beginning I felt so nervous and intimidated. I listened to some things that did not like me. However, after some feedback sessions I learned a lot and it helped me to move forward as a project professional and learn from my mistakes. And in fact I always make some mistakes managing projects and programs, but I always try to learn from them.

I found some executives that never asked me for feedback. Sentences like "No thanks, I don't need your opinion, I have been involved in many projects for many years, you cannot teach me anything...".They are still there in the same position and making the same mistakes, they never listen to their people so they will not learn any more. Everybody can be my teacher is one of my preferred sentences and every day I can learn something from somebody.Don't wait any more, get feedback sessions organized with your team members in your projects.

Obviously people can give you positive and also negative feedback. I'm focused on learning from the other's feedback.I found some useful guidelines to giving positive feedback that I'd like to share with you:

- Be a cheerleader for your people. Encourage them persistently. Find ways to encourage each other. Caring of your people is  one of your obligations as a good project manager.

- Back people up and build people up. Help people to develop themselves professionally and personally.

- Say thank you frequently. You need to find the right occasions to do it.

- Choose your words to reinforce the other's person self-worth by borrowing their relating style-words that are meaningful to them, but not necessarily to you.

- Give/praise in private and in public. Use verbal and written praise

- Let your praise of your people be heard by clients or customers and be sincere giving a praise

- Avoid word/choices that include the word "but"

- Watch your timing and the emotional conditions of others

At the begining of my career I was so shy, and giving negative feedback was sometimes more difficult than giving positive feedback. However, based in my experience, I also have some best practices for you that helped me managing people in projects:

- Remember that most people want to do the right thing

- Show appreciaton for the part that was done well

- Never personalize the criticism

- Avoid the word "you" as much as possible

- Focus the discussion on the improvement needed or on solutions

- Focus on the problem not on the people

- Focus on learning from the facts and situation

- Provide outside information as a reference point  wherever possible "These conditions are different because..."

- Use your patience

- Use the appropriate style of communication according to the people personality

- Use your filters when listening to responses to your negative feedback or criticism.

As soon as you end of reading this article go to your team and ask them for feedback. Don't lose your time, don't stop your learning process during your projects.   


Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I wouldn't view at "negative feedback" but as constructive criticism, helping that individual improve their performance. If constructive criticism is due, providing specific examples to the individual help depersonalize the discussion as well as provide substance for a good discussion. "You delivered your work late several times" is vague, and will not trigger nearly as useful a conversation as "Task A was delivered 1 day overdue, as was Task C." - which shows the person receiving feedback that the issue is valid, and offers them the opportunity to discuss reasons why these events occurred.

Joe MacNish

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