The coach's corner

Nov 30, 2020
Julia Rowan answers your management, leadership, and team development questions.

Nine months after we started to work from home, I’m beginning to worry that my team is becoming fragmented. How can I stop that happening?

Since September, I have noticed a significant change. Up to the end of the summer, lots of people were delighted that they didn’t have to commute or buy expensive lunches. Now, many long to be with their colleagues and have those informal catch-ups that knit teams together. They want to ‘go home’ rather than ‘be at home’. We have mostly defaulted to online options but meeting outside for a ‘walk and talk’ meeting (guidelines permitting) is still possible. Some find that the change in setting and activity can lead to deeper conversation and connection. If online is the only (or primary) option, think about how you can create a connection. Online picnics, coffees, or beers are nice – but think about your scheduled meetings and make space for people to talk about how they are doing. You want real discussion as opposed to ‘false positive’ engagement, which can be stressful. And the leader goes first because being honest about your experience permits the team to be honest about theirs. Don’t get stressed about the things you can’t fix. You can create a connection, and you can listen. Your one-to-one meetings are also important, so make sure that the ‘How are you?’ conversation is always high on the agenda.

I was recently put in charge of a team. I love the extra responsibility, but I hate giving feedback. How can I shake this fear?

Being in a position where you are leading, making decisions, distributing work, and giving feedback is both exciting and challenging. Remember that your team members have a right to know how they are doing. Their development is important, and your feedback counts. One reason why managers don’t give feedback is that they feel they don’t have permission. So, here is a framework for a conversation that can help you do just that:

  1. Context: provide the rationale for giving feedback. For example, “You’ve taken on some challenging projects” or “There is a lot of change happening” or “It’s going to be particularly busy coming up to year-end”.
  2. Conversation: outline the conversation you want to have. For example, “For that reason, it will be important for us to stay close; to talk about what’s working well and adding value, and what’s not working well and could be changed”.
  3. Consent: clear the path to provide your feedback. For example, “Would that be okay with you?”
Your team members want, expect, and have a right to feedback. Reflect on how sharing feedback will be useful for both of you, and find the positives. Intention always wins out!

Julia Rowan is Principal Consultant at Performance Matters, a leadership and team development consultancy. To send a question to Julia, email