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Why No One Likes Taking One for the Team

Watching my boys play hockey every week reminds me of something that used to really bug me as a participant in team sports. I called it, “taking one for the team.” Typically, if the team loses a game or has a bad play, the coach will pull the team aside and give them a verbal “blast” relative to what they had done wrong.

When I was young this often involved the coach yelling and waving his arms around. Fortunately, this seems less common in team sports today. That said you only need to watch a few professional hockey or baseball games to see that this approach to providing feedback is still quite prominent in some settings.

Interestingly I’ve seen this same archaic and ineffective means of providing feedback used by many leaders in business.

It seems to be put into use when one or two employees make a bad decision or fail to meet a deadline. In response to the issue the supervisor or manager ends up pulling the entire team aside and giving them a verbal “blasts” about for their poor performance.

Have you ever had a boss like this? I have, and let me tell you it is not fun.

I’m often asked to coach leaders who use this, “take one for the team” approach as it often has long term impacts on team morale and productivity. When coaching these type of leaders I start by asking them why on earth they use this approach to feedback and their response is often related to a belief that this “take one for the team approach” either saves them time or is a means to communicate the issue to a broader group.

Unfortunately no one that I’ve ever met likes being called to the carpet for something he or she has not done wrong. No one.

That’s not the only problem though. Studies have shown that providing feedback in a group setting, where the points raised aren’t entirely relevant to everyone participating, actually diminishes the receptivity to the feedback and over time lessens the respect recipients have for the person providing the feedback.

So the question is whether group feedback is effective. In essence should an employee have to, “take one for the team?”

The short answer is yes, group feedback can be effective however there are some rules to ensure recipients of the feedback are receptive. Here are a couple that I advise many of the leaders I coach to use when they are forced to provide feedback to a small group:

First, use group feedback as a supplement to individual feedback.

If an employee has made a mistake and you’ve had an opportunity to discuss the issue directly with him or her, and coach the person on the proper process or protocol, with the employee’s permission bring the situation back to the group to discuss the lessons learned and include the employee in the presentation (if he or she is comfortable doing so). This creates an environment for group learning.

Second, approach group feedback as a collaborative dialogue.

Discuss changes in process or mistakes that have been made in a group setting, and ask for feedback and ideas from the group on how to improve upon or resolve the situation moving forward. Thus the discussion is shifted from, “What was done wrong or missed?” to, “How can we make this process or approach better to avoid any errors or issues in the future?” Employees are more receptive to collectively discussing ideas for improving how they work than they are to hearing a one-sided view of what they are doing wrong.

Consider the week ahead and situations where you may be forced to provide feedback to a group. How can you shift from a “take one for the team,” approach to a collaborative dialogue focused on enticing employees to participate in finding and identifying solutions to working better together?

Are you facing a situation where you’re unsure of how to shift to a more collaborative dialogue when providing feedback? Hit reply and let me know the situation. I’ll be happy to share some additional ideas with you.

© Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.

 
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