Upskill your team's Feedback and Communication Skills

Stefanni Brasil

As an Engineering Manager/Team Lead, how many times have you seen your team having issues with code reviews? Or any other interpersonal conflict hindering the team’s productivity?

Chances are, pretty often.

One way to think about these dynamics is to react to them as they arise. But that doesn’t scale very well because it requires you to be there every time.

An alternative is to proactively upskill your team on conflict resolution and feedback skills. Not sure where to get started?

In this post, I will share my favorite resources for upskilling communication and feedback skills.

Having productive 1:1s with your Developers

The first step starts with having a good relationship with the people you support. To help them get there, one of my favorite resources is Julia Evan’s Help! I have a manager! zine. Julia gives practical examples of how to have productive 1:1s and catch issues as soon as they happen.

After I have discussed something that’s been bothering me with my team lead and ways to handle it compassionately, it’s time to address the situation with the person. It’s time to give feedback.

Getting better at giving and receiving feedback

Feedback is something that very few people learn how to do well. It’s common to go through all the work of communicating in less productive ways, such as passive, or aggressive to avoid giving feedback.

If your team does not even consider getting better feedback, it’s worth getting a pulse if they trust the company’s processes in the first place.

If they react positively, or with curiosity to the idea, there are training programs to help them get there.

Lara Hogan has tons of resources for that. My go-to is the Feedback Equation because I get examples of how to say that something is wrong, and avoid being frustrated by expecting someone to change based only on my wishful thinking.

My other favorite resources for upskilling my communication, conflict management, and feedback skills are these books:

Here at thoughtbot, we have written a lot about giving communication and feedback. Here are my favorite posts:

  • Beyond Best Intentions - Assuming best intentions is the result of building a culture of trust in your organization, not a step towards it.
  • On Feedback - How can we give better feedback to each other?

We recently had a live fireside chat talking about how it is to be a team lead at thoughtbot. We got lots of questions about communication and feedback. If you see your team struggling with it, you’re not alone. Hopefully, these resources can give you some ideas on what to explore next.

On that note, what are you looking forward to trying with your team? I love talking about these things, reach out if you’d like to chat.