A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Team Feedback

Repeat after me, “I am not a P.  I am better than average.  I will not accept the minimum.  I am not a P.”  As Type A’s I’m sure this is a morning mantra we all repeat to ourselves in front of the mirror before we start our days in residency and perhaps say to ourselves before we hit the submit button on the platform.  For most of us however, at some point we will receive the dreaded “P” and for the real over achievers the dreaded “HP”.

I know for me I go through several stages when I don’t perform at the level I have set for myself.  First is the feeling like I am going to puke because I am so disappointed in myself.  Then there is the stage where I bang my forehead on the desk in cries of agony, “Why?  Why Professor Anton?  Why me?  Why my paper?  Whhhhyyyyyyyyyy?????”  Okay, perhaps not that dramatic, but you get the point.  Then I move on to the justification.  “Well apparently he didn’t read my brilliant and excellent analysis of X.  If he truly understood X he would have seen I am the best Y since the dawning of time.  It’s not my fault my brilliance has eclipsed even the sun’s rays.  I will wait for the day the reptilian aliens are defeated and the good aliens take over and show that I am an enlightened one.”  Yes, for that brief egotistical moment I sore on my own flights of grandeur, until the reality that I just received the grade from one of Duke’s number one ranked faculty sets in.    SPLAT!  I am now back on solid ground, where I am left with my humility and a less than optimal grade.  Okay, okay, I suck, I f*ed up, I earned a bad grade.  Now how do I fix it?


Now if that cycle doesn’t fit you, I bow to you and/or ask you to excuse my mental disorder.  From what I’m learning though, it is one thing to get the grade on an individual paper and quite another to receive a grade that is different than expected on a group assignment.  I go through the whole process of ups and downs and highs and lows until I am left with the same reality check, that somehow we didn’t meet the expectations we set for ourselves.  When it’s my grade, I know I have to take ownership and I have to ask for feedback, and I need to improve on the areas given.  On a group grade…where do we begin?  Whether  or not you have experienced this on a graded assignment for Duke, chances are you will experience it sometime in your career.  You’ll be on or leading a team, you will submit your work, and it just won’t measure up to what the expectations were.

So with this dilemma in mind, I set out to do some internet research on how to approach team feedback.  Here’s what the experts suggest (please note, as many examples as possible are given in the form of reptilian alien warfare, a subject I am now well versed in):

Do’s-

  1. Be Timely– Make sure you address the feedback within a timeframe where the information is still relevant and can be acted upon.  “You know, come to think of it, ever since the reptilians hollowed out the Earth’s core, I’ve been meaning to tell the human race about them.”   Hmm…probably won’t help humanity now that the shape shifters have taken over our political system.
  2. Be Specific– Focus on the action and the results that were expected, and state how to correct it next time.  “I think we should solve world peace.  To do that we need everyone to love each other and not shoot at one another.”  Specific enough?  No.  How about, “We need to solve world peace by spreading the word that the reptilian aliens are in control so they cannot carry out their evil plan.  If we can distribute 10,000 pamphlets with pictures of UFOs next to President X’s face then we will over throw the evil underlings!”  Now that’s specific!  Talk to Starbucks Guy for more details.
  3. Be  Open and Offer Suggestions– Be ready to offer suggestions to help improve or remedy the identified root cause.  “So I’m not really happy about reptilian aliens.  Whatcha gonna do about it?”  Hmm…I’m thinking you might receive cold icy stares from your teammates if that’s your approach.  How about something a little more suave, like,  “Hey, so you know we have a real problem with these reptilian aliens shape shifting into prominent political leaders.  I have a suggestion though.  If we blow up their secret military base in Virginia, we kill the bloodsuckers and people on the East Coast get to experience an earthquake for the first time in their lives!  Win Win right guys?!”  Now that’s putting your thinking cap on.
  4. Create the Right Environment–  Candle light, glass of wine, a violinist playing…..NO, NO, NO, wrong environment!  Make sure it is a private setting, preferably in person so that members of the team can talk openly and indirect communication is easy to pick up on.  It’s also harder for the reptilians eave’s drop.
  5. Check For Understanding and Buy-In– Follow-up to make sure the ideas you’ve discussed as a team have resonated and make sure people understand what the plan for action is.  “So Bubba, let’s just make sure, I’m pushing the big red button on the nukes and you’re going to count the bodies of the reptilians right?  Well now Bubba, we’ve discussed this.  I can’t check the bodies because I am allergic to nuclear radiation.  Clearly that makes you the man for the job.  Good talk.”  Probably better you clarified that beforehand right?

Don’ts

  1. Make It Personal– “Look Bubba, if you had only checked The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe when I told you to nuke the reptilians, you would know that reptilians grow stronger from radiation.  I never would have pushed that big red button.  Shame on you for not checking.”  Poor Bubba.  His feelings are hurt and he has just tuned out the feedback.  Make sure it’s not about one person or one person’s actions, but rather focus on how the team can improve.
  2. Only Give Feedback When There Is a Problem– “Gulp, team meeting time….I know what this is about…we’re going to have to talk about how the reptilians created a new military base in Colorado all amped up on radiation.  I hate team meetings.”  Make sure you’re giving feedback throughout, so when one bump in the road comes up feedback is just something you do, not something you’re punished with.
  3. Address Multiple Issues in One Session– “So guys, while we’re discussing reptilians, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about Masons & Zionists.  I’ve kept notes and we might as well go through them because I can’t bottle it in anymore.”   Woah, there Starbucks Guy!  Deal with one set of feedback at a time so that you really spend the time focusing on the issue you’re trying to address.  By covering too many topics others will not be able to concentrate on the issue at hand and you may not come to a resolution on any one item.

So hopefully you have laughed a little bit and your mind is now at ease that you are more intelligent, and probably more sane, than at least one of your classmates.  And hopefully, somewhere in this rambling, you have a few extra tips to add to your toolbox the next time you don’t destroy the preverbal mother-ship.  If nothing else, just remember, you are human and (cross your fingers) so is the majority of your team.

For more reading:

http://www.teambuildingtips.com/team-building-articles/team-communication/the-dos-and-donts-of-giving-feedback.html

 

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