Kevin Ainley-Walker

Effective feedback in a remote team

Effective communication in a growing team is tough before you even factor in remote workers. So, when working on a collaborative project with individuals located on different sites, interaction levels can be significantly lower, which in turn can negatively impact engagement and work rate.

Some of the key merits of effective feedback include:

  • Give employees a clear understanding of expectations.
  • Promotes curiosity and encourages new behaviours.
  • Improves work quality and promotes individual success.

But the question is, how can you ensure the feedback you give is constructive? And how can you request and appropriately respond to feedback?

How to ensure feedback given is constructive?

Giving feedback is a challenge in its own right and its something that everyone in the workplace should actively work to improve. Remember that submitting work for critique can leave individuals feeling vulnerable, so be sure to take your time and ask yourself the following questions, before offering your opinion:

  • How far along the project are they?
  • how have they described their solution?
  • what has their thought process been?

Good feedback takes time and patience! Remember, in a collaborative project, the whole team is accountable and so you should always look at the bigger picture when assessing an individual’s efforts and have the end goal in mind.

Negative language should be avoided when giving feedback as it is not constructive. Negative comments can deter workers and make them feel unappreciated. Your role is not to criticise an individuals decisions, it is to support their learning and help them to improve.

The table below illustrates negative language and positive alternatives.

Don’t say this … Do say this …
Never do this! I like this element, but how would it look if we amended this?
This is wrong. Are there any performance implications if we try it this way?
Why have you done this? This is an interesting technique – can you explain your thought process?

Using positive reinforcement and requesting research/ reasoning behind a decision will ensure that the feedback is constructive. With this, the individual will learn to justify their ideas and can improve their work to meet the expected standards.

When giving feedback the most important thing is to bear in mind how you would feel if you were at the receiving end.

How should I respond to feedback?

Learning how to appropriately react to feedback is an obstacle in its own right. Everyone will respond to feedback differently. Some people will take negative comments to heart and may go into ‘defensive mode’, whereas others take critique with a pinch of salt. When responding to feedback, you should respect opinions and justify your decisions with research and sound explanations to help outline your thought process.

There are three reactions people commonly have when receiving feedback:

  1. Maintain the same behaviour. In other words, some individuals will ignore feedback if they don’t agree with it.
  2. Reinforce the behaviour by denial or justification.
  3. Change the behaviour. In this instance the individual will have accepted and understood the feedback, leading to improvements in future work.

How can I request feedback from peers?

Shy bairns get nowt! Although requesting feedback can be daunting, it’s vital to your professional development. Whilst showing initiative is important at work, asking peers and management for their opinions can highlight you as being determined and engaged! When asking for feedback, remember:

  • Only ask for feedback at milestones of your project, not for every tiny detail.
  • State which elements of the project you want feedback on.
  • Tell the giver the status of the project, if you don’t, they may think that it is complete when it is not.

How can I develop a relationship with remote team members?

Remote workers can feel outcast, and equally, you might not feel like you have a strong working relationship with them. Maintaining consistent communication, via positive reinforcement and requesting their input will support relationships. Regular interaction with remote teams will generate mutual appreciation, which is vital for engagement.

Kevin Ainley-Walker – Lead Developer at tombola