Leadership Out of Context

 · 2 mins read

Recently I was observing a team of students working together on a performance and I witnessed one of the lessons I’d learned in a past PSEL session in action. We talked recently about motivating teams and how to get people on board with you. Feedback was mentioned as an important part of the process, because no one gets better without feedback, positive or negative.

One of the important things we talked about during that session with regard to feedback was ways to deliver feedback that are motivating rather than degrading. The ideas were really good, and one of the best ones that I recalled from the session was about making sure that the person you are giving feedback to is in a place to receive that feedback well. For instance, if someone on your team has just experienced a spectacular failure and is still dealing with the fallout, that moment may not be the best time to provide them with feedback. Waiting until that person is ready to talk about the problem is a good way to ensure that the message will be well received and also remembered and put to use later on.

I saw this in practice one day when, as I mentioned, I was observing some students working together on a performance. As soon as one of the team members was finished with their part at the microphone, she sat down and was immediately confronted by another group member who had a lot of suggestions for improvement. The speaker was not in a place to get this feedback right after finishing the performance and ended up snapping at her teammate, who fired back, offended that his suggestions were not welcomed. The two separated themselves before anyone else got involved so that they could cool down, but I was reminded instantly of our session. Had the student waited until his teammate was ready to hear what could have gone better, I think this interaction would have been more successful. Additionally, I think the student could have started off his feedback with something that the teammate had done well, instead of leading with a negative right away.

It was a startling reminder that being a good leader has a lot to do with being an empathetic, emotionally intelligent person across a variety of scenarios, not only just in traditional leadership positions. In the future I will look for chances to practice these strategies so I can be better equipped to use them if I am ever in a formal leadership role.