Being a Product Owner at Lofty

Here at Lofty, we’ve built a lot of excellent products. We make complex products, data-heavy products, we even build ML products…and we always build stuff that matters! We want to contribute to the advancement of our world by building tools that matter (yes, that is literally our mission statement). As Product Owners at Lofty and elsewhere, we hold ourselves accountable to the defined reality of building products that deliver value to the stakeholders, which means we play an integral role in enabling and empowering excellent teams. Over the next several content posts, I will discuss some essential values driving excellence in all my teams. We’re kicking off this section with the how and why of giving feedback to direct reports (hint, hint…these apply to peers as well)

Feedback in the workplace offers an opportunity for learning, developing, and engaging employees. Leaders know it, and research proves it. When managers, team leaders, and even team members provide consistent feedback, contributors are motivated to do outstanding work and are far more likely to be engaged at work. There are convincing figures for adopting a process for delivering feedback (Gallup). As a Product Owner specifically, the willingness to be open to feedback from stakeholders is a common expectation, but what about the expectation for providing constructive feedback to those on our teams? As someone who is held accountable for the results of a team, learning to give your contributors feedback is a crucial skill that POs may butt up against in the first few months on the job. We can employ these tips below to get started with our process of providing feedback to our teammates.

Giving Feedback

The delivery of feedback is crucial to producing lasting change. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when delivering great feedback to your team:

Avoid unplanned/surprise feedback:

  • When feedback is given suddenly or unsolicitedly, it can be stressful for the recipient and negate any positive effect the feedback might have.
  • Leaders must consider the timing and space to provide feedback. Create a safe space for the employee to receive it well. If an employee does not directly ask for feedback, ask them if, when, and how it would be a good method to deliver the information.

Making it about the work and not about the person:

  • Receiving constructive feedback can be hard. Sometimes people see the feedback as an attack on their personality or who they are. The delivery needs to consider this in the language and focus on ‘what they do’ versus ‘what they’re like’
  • Clearly describing the behavior that needs to change while focusing the message on how to change and the benefit of making the change will make it about the work and not about the person.

Consider the timing:

  • Don’t wait to provide feedback! Providing feedback as soon as appropriate after the observation will impact performance the most. Managers should aim for a consistent cadence of feedback, and studies show that weekly exchanges provide the most significant employee engagement.

Use emotional intelligence before and when delivering feedback:

  • When feedback is used to correct a behavior or critique the performance, as someone delivering feedback, it will be essential to consider your emotional state before the exchange. Are you upset about the occurrence or anxious to deliver the message? If so, you may end up wrapping the message in an unintended, negative emotion that may cause the recipient to feel attacked and overlook the message.
  • Take the time to manage your emotions and consider how you should deliver this feedback to minimize any potential negative impact on that person’s productivity or the overall team’s productivity.

Giving feedback is intrinsic in the workplace and encourages teams to find their optimal working order. Like anything in an Agile Product Owner’s world, it may require several iterations or adjustments before it becomes a staple for the team, but you must start somewhere.

The next post in this series will discuss the skill of Receiving Feedback, as a teammate, employee, and Product Owner and some tips for engaging with those critiques.

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