Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.
I recently had the privilege of working with about 150 employees of a government department. They had a tough job. It involved contacting people to give them bad news. They then needed to work with those people to handle a problem that cut to the core of the lifestyle and businesses of those affected.

My job was to help the workers find ways to make their interactions with the people affected as positive as possible. Despite the unpleasant circumstances.

The workers were all competent and experienced people. Many of them had first-hand knowledge of the lifestyle and businesses of the people they were dealing with. Some had even been directly affected themselves by the problem being addressed.

We all worked together to put ourselves into the shoes of the people being affected. We asked the question: ‘How would I want to be dealt with if I was in that situation?’

Three insights came out of our discussions. Insights that are useful for all of us when we are dealing with others in challenging times and situations  (like leading a team through Covid 19.).
  • Let me know what is going on 
    If times are tough I need you to be honest with me—tell me the truth. Be transparent and provide me with factual, accurate information. Give me clarity by communicating well and often.
  • Treat me well  
    Respect me, show me empathy and demonstrate a recognition of what I am experiencing. Be supportive, helpful and be patient. And most importantly, listen. Let me be heard.
  • Let me be part of the solution  
    Work with me. Let me know what options and choices I have. What autonomy can I exercise, what can I control. What plan, process or timeline can I work with? What actions can I take?

Those insights might seem obvious when we see them in a list. Their value lies in action - putting them into practice consistently when times are tough.




Feedback, it’s important right? Not just when team members get things wrong, but when things are going well too.

You see Pete doing a job and he is not wearing his safety goggles. So, at your tool box meeting the following morning you tell everybody ‘You need to up your game and stop being slack about safety around here.’

You arrive at the office and find the team on task and working well. So, you drop by the staff café at morning tea time and tell them all ‘You’re doing a great job team, keep up the good work’.

Rants and rah-rah

You think you were giving feedback. But what you really did was have a rant and a rah-rah moment. You are suffering from the plague of the vague.

Phrases like ‘up your game’, ‘stop being slack’, ‘great job’ and ‘keep up the good work’ don’t give your team any meaningful information about what they need to do or what they have been doing well. Although your intentions were good, what you said will have little or no positive effect on performance and productivity.


Feedback that produces positive results needs to be given with the confidence of clarity. You can do that by making sure your feedback is SPOT ON:







A couple of examples

(Check them against the Spot On checklist. Notice how even a single statement can pass more than one test.)

When you see Pete not wearing his safety goggles, give him feedback ‘Pete if you keep doing that job without wearing safety goggles you could end up blind. Stop what you are doing and put your safety goggles on.’

When you arrive at the office and find the team on task and working well. Drop by the staff café at morning tea time and tell them, ‘I’m impressed by the focused effort you are all putting into the ABC contract at present. We are all achieving our targets and we are on track to meet the deadline.’

Interested in a workshop for your team leaders?