Genuine conversation speech bubbles

I’ve been asked my view over the last week of the footage showing AFL player Brendan Goddard in a seemingly heated conversation with team mates during a game and it made me think of how we work with our clients in this space.

At Leading Teams, we don’t refer to feedback as positive or negative, simply as an opportunity to improve. We refer to giving and receiving feedback as the ‘Genuine Conversation’ and there are some really clear guidelines we use with any team about this very important skill in improving team performance.

The Giver

The responsibility of the genuine conversation and its outcomes is on the giver; that is, the person delivering the feedback.  So, with that in mind:

  • Build strong professional relationships with peers, based on trust and respect. If the conversation is had in the heat of a game or in a time of urgency at work, you may need to check back in on your relationships later and that’s ok. If the relationship is strong enough, and the intent of improvement is trusted, then the delivery of the feedback will be forgiven (if forgiveness is needed) and the relationship will not be impacted.
  • Have an agreed framework for behaviour. At Leading Teams we call this a trademark. This becomes the reference point for the conversation itself; if the team buys in to what behaviours are important to them to achieve their best, then the conversation of rewarding or challenging performance should reference the trademark. It will also ensure the feedback is based on behaviour and not about the person.
  • Find the right way / place / time – there is always a choice here. So, in a sporting environment, there are quick decisions to be made around having the conversation at the time or waiting for a break. In the corporate world, do you challenge during the meeting or wait until later? There’s no rule, but you can always deliver the feedback clearly, concisely and with care; there is a clear difference between aggressive and assertive.
  • Don’t ask anyone to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself. Are you modelling the behaviours in your trademark? Are you playing the role the team needs you to play? Look at your own behaviour first before asking someone else to change theirs.

The Receiver

The receiver has an important role to play to in helping to ensure that genuine conversations can become a sustainable part of the company culture.

The points are mostly the same as above, but at the time of the conversation, the following things are crucial:

  • Don’t respond defensively, try to justify or make excuses – this includes your body language. A leader I once worked with was asked to stop being defensive and he responded to this feedback by slamming his book on the ground and folding his arms in a huff (it looked very defensive to me!). You don’t have to say anything to be communicating very clearly.
  • If you need to respond – say thanks. Reward the person for having the conversation and showing enough care to want to help you to get better.
  • You don’t have to agree with what’s been said, but if you hear the same thing multiple times, there’s probably something in it. Seek help to clarify and get an example if needed.
  • Don’t try and act on everything you hear at once. We sometimes refer to the low-hanging fruit – is there something you can act on straight away that will show the person / team you have heard them?

It takes work to create an environment where the genuine conversation becomes part of a team’s culture and performance improves as a result. If you’d like some help to make it a part of yours, give us a call today on 03 9654 3744.


Martine Harkin

Martine Harkin

Martine joined Leading Teams in 2008 after an 11 year teaching career. Martine is a Facilitator/Partner based in Melbourne.

Learn more about Martine.