The essentials of people development

AMBOSS

How can your candid feedback go beyond providing specific examples, and become a source of improvement and empowerment for your direct reports? Renata, our Performance Marketing Director,  shares her first-hand experience and advice. 

Renata, far left, with folks on the AMBOSS marketing team

When we asked Renata Narożyńska, Performance Marketing Director, if she’d share her thoughts on the essentials of people development, she had the best response: “I’d be delighted to, as teams can’t grow and develop without embracing a positive and constructive feedback culture.”

Managers like Renata wear their humanity and empathy on their sleeves. By the end of our conversation, it was clear that upon entering people management, Renata had embarked on a personal mission to encourage her team’s growth, and master feedback as one of the most important tools in her kit. 

If you manage a team, check out her 5 principles of giving feedback and see what you can include in yours.

Trust is key 

There are many reasons why feedback doesn’t always reach its goals, and a major underlying factor is a lack of trust. If your team member does not trust that you have their personal development in mind, no matter how good your wording, timing, and examples are, they might miss the point. 

If it’s clear for both parties that what you’re sharing is coming from a place of care and respect, it opens a new communication channel, where there’s space for clarification, understanding, and ultimately a path to solutions. 

Maintain a two-way communication street 

Ensure your team and peers know that effective feedback goes both ways. We’re all equals, and have our own knowledge and understanding of a situation or solution. If your colleagues know that you’re open to their suggestions, they will more willingly welcome yours. 

Encourage this by proactively asking what they think — how would they improve a process, or how would they approach a certain problem? Very soon, you’ll get not only tons of useful tips, but a readiness for important conversations. It also allows for transparent conversations to happen about why certain decisions are made, and creates space for sharing honest reasons behind tough choices. 

Praise and positive feedback 

Kindness goes a long way, so be generous with positive feedback and reinforcement. Praise the effort—things can always be improved, but often, done is better than perfect. 

Renata shared an interesting example from her professional life; “It was one of my biggest learnings, coming from a very demanding Eastern European culture, where the adjective ‘amazing’ is reserved for Nobel prize winners, to understand the importance of appraisal. At the beginning, it seemed very artificial, but it grew on me, and now I understand that nothing motivates more than knowing your effort is visible and appreciated.” 

Making space for curiosity and gratitude 

In some companies, feedback has earned a bad reputation, and is misused as non-factual criticism or threats. Renata suggests reframing the intention to taking the time to suggest areas for improvement. Providing the managerial opinion on a colleague’s actions is a valuable source of information that has the power to speed up career development. 

How can you ensure it will be welcomed, with curiosity and gratitude? State clearly why what you’re about to share is important and provide context. Also, give the person you are sharing this with the opportunity to disregard your feedback — no one is obliged to share your view. 

Finally, always talk about the situation or problem, not the person. Start conversations with; “I understood it this way, and this affected me,” instead of placing blame. Most importantly, don’t allow feedback cycles to be a time for dread. If your peers or colleagues find out what went poorly only once a year, and while under the threat of losing their position, you’re missing opportunities for great outcomes, and doing your team a disservice. Fear kills creativity and solution seeking, and at the end of the day, you want partners. 

Take your time and check in with yourself 

One of the most overlooked topics regarding feedback is your own mental state. If you are exhausted, stressed, or scared it will be felt in your message, and influence the conversation, even if you don’t mean for it to. Fear is not a place from which you initiate positive change. Ensure and check your intentions — something you can learn to do with guides like Brené Brown’s The Engaged feedback checklist and her book Dare to Lead

Managing a team is a privilege and a source of learning. It’s crucial to take responsibility and do the work. Look for help from great minds, like Brené Brown, Adam Grant, and Amy Edmondson, and remember to check in with peers, and seek feedback and mentorship on this journey. Giving and receiving feedback is one of the greatest tools you can wield as a manager, and when you can harness its power, both you and your team can continue to grow. 

What are your favorite resources? What would you add to this list?