Bonus! Three more tips for how manager can improve direct peer feedback

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I’ve been writing a lot about peer feedback lately, and here’s why:  It can do great things for your team, or it can do bad things for your team.  So let’s get it right.  Let’s make it a force for good, rather than bad.

In my previous article, I provided three tips for driving the positive outcomes of using peer feedback as a tool for improving your team performance. As a manager, you have to manage how peer feedback is given.  If you manage this, your team as a whole will drive for improved performance, not just you.


Let’s continue down that path and explore three more tips for developing a team that uses peer feedback effectively:

4. Phase in giving feedback and who gives feedback

There are lots of situations where you must beware unleashing the feedback-giving ethos:

–A new team member may not be the best person to give feedback.  The new team member may not know what the right course of action is.  However, that person is also a candidate to receive peer feedback, and hence will begin to experience the culture of giving and receiving peer feedback.  But when first starting, perhaps you should not unleash the expectation to give peer feedback right away.

–Similarly, another team member may have trouble using behavior-based language.  Don’t encourage this person to give peer feedback.

–Next, another team member may be observed using every angle for political edge, and could use feedback as a weapon rather than a means for improved team performance.  Perhaps you know this type? “Aha, you don’t know how to do this task as well as I can!  I’m going to tell my boss that you’re not a good at what you do.”

These are the people who should not be giving performance feedback!  They haven’t earned it!

You can gradually phase in who has earned the right to give feedback, if they can demonstrate that they are capable of giving feedback in a behavior-based, performance improvement-centric way with the intent for improving the team performance, rather than their individual standing.  It is possible to getting everyone on the team to give feedback to each other, but you will likely want to build toward it.

Another flavor of this is identifying who has the strengths and areas of expertise in giving feedback.  You don’t want the person who is bad at presenting to give feedback on presenting.  This is where understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses is useful and strategic, as it will help build the overall capability of your team.

5. Give feedback on how feedback is given

As a manager, you can insert yourself to the situation where you observe the team member giving feedback to another team member.  Your goal is to focus on how the feedback is given and give feedback on how the feedback is given.  Yes, it’s very “meta” to give feedback on giving feedback, but this is why you are now the manager! If you want to set up a high-performing team, you make sure that the elements of a high-performing team are in place, and this is what you have to do.  Giving feedback on giving feedback also demonstrates that you consider this an important, tangible skill, and one necessary to succeed in the organization.  Perhaps, as a result of your coaching, feedback quality might improve in your organization?

Also, when you know someone is good at giving feedback (because you have directly observed it), then you know that they have one of the core skill sets needed to be a great manager.  What’s the alternative, you promote someone to manager and you don’t know if they can give performance feedback?

6. Reward the behaviors you like in this area

If you observe your team using performance feedback and improving as a team, you should positively reinforce this behavior.  For example, say to the person you observe giving feedback in a quality manner, “Thank you for your good work in providing feedback.  I like how you stayed specific to the tasks, provided alternatives for improvement, and used behavior-based language.”  You can continue with, “Because of your quality feedback, the impact on the team is it becomes more self-sustaining, continually improving, and uses the power of teamwork over individual action.”

This indicates that you consider the feedback-providing aspect as an important part of the job, and not merely an added “above and beyond” service the employee does in addition to the “regular work.”

And don’t limit this positive reinforcement to “public feedback”, where you blanket tell the whole team “great job in providing feedback to one another.”  This is a rather weak way of driving a particular behavior and may even reinforce the wrong behaviors by those who aren’t doing it well.

Are these things you’ve seen managers do to improve the performance of their teams?  How often have you received feedback on your willingness and ability to give feedback?  What is your experience in this area?

For you management designers out there, what are you doing to ensure that peer feedback is being used for good, rather than used for ill and political gain?

Related Articles:

Tips for how a manager can improve direct peer feedback

Why peer feedback from surveys doesn’t qualify as feedback

Some pros and cons of peer feedback directly given by peers

An opportunity to increase the amount of performance feedback on your team

Examples of how peer feedback from surveys is misused by managers

How to use peer feedback from surveys for good (it’s not easy) Part 1

How to use peer feedback from surveys for good (it’s not easy) – Part 2




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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


One Response to “Bonus! Three more tips for how manager can improve direct peer feedback”
  1. Right on again Walter….it is important to teach the feedback process so individuals can succeed at both receiving and giving feedback…introducing and assessing for feedback skills in the selection process as well as designing it into new team member orientation at multiple levels (supervisor, manager, project manager and corporate HR) all contribute to creating a positive & effective work culture.


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