6 December, 2021

Performance Feedback: How to Turbo-Charge Your Project Team Members

As a project manager, you are not just responsible for your project. You are also responsible for the people on your project. That includes their professional development. And nothing develops people more effectively than good quality performance feedback.

Often, we get our own performance feedback by simply observing what we do and the results it has. But it’s too easy to miss the details. That’s why we need others to give us their feedback. So, you need to develop the skills for giving good performance feedback to your project team members.

In this article, we’ll summarize the skills, techniques, and tips you’ll need.

Performance Feedback- How to Turbo-Charge Your Project Team Members

So, What’s Included?

This article will answer eight questions…

  1. Why Bother with Performance Feedback?
  2. What is Performance Feedback… And what is it not?
  3. How can You Create the Right Culture for Effective Performance Feedback?
  4. Who Should You Offer Performance Feedback to?
  5. When Should You Give Performance Feedback?
  6. How Do You Give Effective Performance Feedback?
  7. Where Should You Give Your Performance Feedback?
  8. What if Your Performance Feedback Doesn’t Go to Plan?

Free Feedback Course

By the way, our sister YouTube Channel, Management Courses, is releasing our new course on feedback during Quarter 4 of 2021 and Quarter 1 of 2022. During that period, there will be a new video every Tuesday. You can watch the course (or select individual videos, from the:

Why Bother with Performance Feedback?

Performance Feedback is one of the principal ways we learn at work.

No less a figure than Ken Blanchard described feedback as ‘the breakfast of champions’:

Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

Ken Blanchard

Whilst I can envisage an effective project manager taking little or no interest in their team’s learning over a short project, this is far from ideal. For longer projects, or where you have long-term relationships with your team, helping them develop is not negotiable. It supports your long-term success, as well as theirs. And it is your responsibility.

With good feedback, your team members will improve their performance – individually and collectively. And, the gift of feedback can earn you their loyalty and commitment. And of course, if you aspire to step beyond a pure Project Manager role, and become a Project Leader, this is a skill you’ll need.

Why not take a look at our article: Get Better Project Results with Personal Leadership.

What is Performance Feedback…
And what is it not?

The clue to the nature of performance feedback is in the name. It is feedback on performance. This means that it is based on what your team member has done and the results they’ve achieved. It is not about your predictions for them, or your suppositions about what they can and cannot do well.

Good performance feedback is always based on evidence. Its value is that it is the start of a process. By describing what you have observed, you are sharpening my awareness.

The value crystallizes when that feedback becomes the basis for a discussion about the future. You want to encourage your team member to take responsibility for choices and actions that will lead to better performance.

On the other hand, performance feedback is not:

  • personal feedback around factors that do not affect performance
  • a chance to reprimand or criticize – its purpose is to aid learning
  • a formal end-of-project or annual or semi-annual process – it should be a regular and frequent aspect of your leadership

How can You Create the Right Culture for Effective Performance Feedback?

Performance feedback works best in an open culture, where understanding is important, and blame is irrelevant.

Blame is for God and Small Children
Blame is for God and Small Children

This allows your team to trust you and become receptive to an honest assessment of their performance.

To support this, you need to become skilled at:

  • Observing
  • Recognizing achievement
  • Asking questions
  • Listening

In a constructive feedback conversation, you need to facilitate an open exploration of issues, ideas, and options.

Who Should You Offer Performance Feedback to?

You should certainly offer performance feedback to anyone for whom you have some form of managerial, supervisory, leadership, or developmental responsibility. And it does not hurt to also offer it to others who have an involvement in your project.

Where it gets tricky on a large project is feedback to members of discrete sub-teams. In their case, performance feedback is the responsibility of their immediate team leader. As a project manager, you need to be mindful of the risks of cutting across their authority and relationships.

I still think it can be helpful for a Project Manager to give feedback to people within other teams, but I’d counsel caution:

  • Be clear about the basis under which you are giving the feedback
  • Keep it informal
  • Let the team leader know what you have done, and share your feedback with them

A special case is project team members who are employees of another organization:

  • contractors
  • consultants
  • suppliers
  • partners

Here, you need to exercise great care. In these cases, I’d be more likely to pass on my feedback via their own team leader. However, for recognition of successes and expressing my gratitude for good work, I’d still want to do it directly

When Should You Give Performance Feedback?


If feedback really does boost project team motivation and lift performance – and it does – then why would you not make as much use of it as you can? Consider part of your role as a project leader to be about catching people doing a good job, and pointing it out to them.

Part of your role as a #project #leader is to catch people doing a good job, and point it out to them.

And as soon as possible after any significant performance event.

Events are often quick to fade in our memories. So it is ideal to give your feedback as near to the event as possible; while it is fresh.

Of course, practicalities intrude on our ideal. There may be other things going on, or the presence of other people may inhibit a frank discussion. The simple rule is:

Congratulate in public; criticize in private

If your feedback must address performance shortcomings, then you need to find a suitable time and place. But do be on the alert for your first chance to do this.

How Do You Give Effective Performance Feedback?

There’s always the same Step 1: Preparation. For simple performance feedback, this is not a big task. But do think through:

  • What is the most important feedback you can give?
  • How will you approach the conversation?
  • What is the evidence you will share?
  • Is there a specific outcome you’d like to see from the conversation?
  • What responses can you anticipate? And…
  • How could you handle them?


Performance feedback should give your colleague a BOOST. That is, it should be:

  • Balanced
  • Observed
  • Objective
  • Specific
  • Timely

Let’s take a look at my BOOST framework…


This does not mean ‘one good thing and one bad thing’.

It means you should determine the right balance of positive endorsement and challenge or concern that reflects the message you want to deliver. There is absolutely no need to find minor criticisms to balance recognition of a major success. You don’t need to prove yourself by showing you can spot tiny details, and nor do you need to bring them down a peg.

On the other hand, if you must give critical feedback that your colleague needs to learn from, then do balance it out. But not with some flimsy ‘but this other thing was good’. At best they will see it as condescending or cowardly. At worst, they will latch onto the good news and ignore your serious concerns.

Instead, balance your concerns about their performance with support and endorsement for them as a person, colleague, and professional. Express your confidence in them and offer whatever help they need.

We have a video that will help you select an appropriate feedback approach…


Always base performance feedback on observations and solid evidence. Ideally, you should be the one who is making the observations. If you get reports second-hand, then you must work hard to validate them before passing on the feedback.

Always test yourself against the typical challenges you might get if your evidence is weak:

  • how do you know?
  • who told you?
  • it wasn’t like that
  • that’s not what happened
  • it wasn’t me


It’s also important to distinguish between:

  1. The Subjective
    This is feedback about the person, their attitudes, capabilities, and style.
    Subjective feedback is not part of performance feedback.
  2. The Objective
    This is feedback about what they do and the impact it has on the results they get.
    This is what you need to deliver.


The more specific you can be about what you observed of their performance and what happened, the more valuable it will be to them.

With detail comes the ability to tune behaviors more precisely. If your feedback is purely around generalities, there will be little for them to work on, in knowing what to keep doing, what to stop doing, and what to change.


We’ve already addressed timing, so I shan’t repeat it here.

Positive Feedback

Here’s a short video that addresses the value of giving positive feedback over identifying faukts or development opportunities.

Where Should You Give Your Performance Feedback?

If you are able to give your feedback immediately, your location will be where they did the work. The Japanese term for this is the Gemba – the place where work happens. And this is the ideal place for your performance feedback, even after the event.

You may not have much choice of location. But, if you do, your considerations will include:

  • How formal or informal you want the conversation to be?
  • Where will they feel comfortable to receive the message you will give?
  • What is convenient for both of you and will result in least disruption?

What if Your Performance Feedback Doesn’t Go to Plan?

Let’s look at four familiar scenarios. What if your colleague:

  • doesn’t want to listen to your feedback?
  • won’t accept your observations?
  • rejects responsibility?
  • gets upset?

Your colleague doesn’t want to listen to your feedback?

By the time you need to give your performance feedback, it’s too late. You need to be establishing the right culture in your team from day one. Each person needs to trust that your judgment is sound, that your feedback well-meaning, and that their career is safe with you as their leader.

If they won’t listen to your feedback, then you have a bigger problem. You need to start to play a long game in winning their trust and confidence.

Your colleague won’t accept your observations?

Did you prepare properly and test the evidence you planned to present? If you did not, then you are at fault and it may be best to listen to their response, accept it, and commit to observing more carefully.

If, however, you are confident in your observations, there are four common reasons:

  1. Reason 1: You Did not Establish Rapport
    Don’t dive into cold water without acclimatizing. Warm up the conversation with a little rapport building. And the best thing is to pick up on a positive observation that will win their confidence that you can spot something they are likely to be proud of.
  2. Reason 2: You weren’t Specific enough
    Often a sound observation becomes diluted when expressed in general terms. They may not be able to fully recognize what you are saying, or it may simply come across as a low-value generalization.
  3. Reason 3: You Don’t have Clear Evidence for Your Feedback
    What did I say above? You need to either present feedback based on your own evidence, or validate evidence if it comes from someone else.
  4. Reason 4: They Don’t trust your Observations or Motivations
    Really, this is a longer-term issue. But a combination of positive attitude, and re-iterating the evidence, along with specifics that they can recognize for themselves, is likely to cut through for you.

Your colleague rejects responsibility?

This is a tough one. Some people don’t want to take responsibility for the outcomes they get:

  • It was her or his fault
  • They didn’t have time, resources, experience
  • Events were out of their control

Help them to understand the causal links between what they did and the results they got. Be open about the role of chance, of others, and of genuine constraints. But show them how alternative choices could have had different outcomes.

Your colleague gets upset?

This will sometimes happen. Be respectful of their emotional response. Listen to their worries. Offer your support. It may be a sign that your feedback matters to them deeply.

Above all, avoid easy responses like:

  • ‘Don’t get upset…’
  • ‘It’s not your fault…’
  • ‘Don’t worry, it won’t happen again…’

If you ask them to explain what’s making them upset, you can get two big advantages:

  1. First, by talking about our emotions, and being listened to, we develop trust, but also start to replace our emotional state with a more resourceful analytical mindset
  2. Second, when they tel you what’s making them upset, you’ll learn more about what you can do that will help them to perform better.

What is Your Advice for Giving Great Performance Feedback?

Here at OnlinePMCourses, we value good performance feedback highly. What are your experiences, tips, and advice?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And we’ll respond to every contribution.

Free Feedback Course

Management Courses: Feedback Course

Our sister YouTube Channel, Management Courses, is releasing our new course on feedback during Quarter 4 of 2021 and Quarter 1 of 2022. During that period, there will be a new video every Tuesday. You can watch the course (or select individual videos, from the:

Paid Course: One-on-One Meetings

Leading Effective One-on-One Meetings

Leading Effective One-on-One Meetings

Everything a Project Manager Needs to Know to Maximize the Value of One-on-One Time.

This video course focuses on getting one-on-one meetings right.

This video training course is $47.
But, for readers of this article, we’re offering a 20% discount.

Click here to get Leading Effective One-on-One Meetings for just $37

Never miss an article or video!

Get notified of every new article or video we publish, when we publish it.

Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Never miss an article or video!

 Get notified of every new article or video we publish, when we publish it.