Team Encouragement and Feedback Delivery Experiences

Hi all,

I would really appreciate your thoughts on the below. I am currently working on my own self development and to hear your experiences would be very insightful.

Those of you in managerial positions (In the world of testing of course) how do you deliver positive feedback/ praise to your teams?

Also when somethings not quite right how do you approach feeding back on areas of improvement for your team?

I wondered if you had any personal experiences, good and bad you could share?



Hi Jacqueline,
Here are a few points I’d make.

  • There isn’t much difference in giving feedback to testers, system engineers, project managers – The jobs are different, but the principles are the same.
  • Feedback should be frequent to be constructive (not just an annual event). In my view the manager’s responsibility includes assignments that allow growth, challenge and success.
  • Feedback needs specific examples (both good and bad) for clarity. (Managers often hear a lot of them from coworkers and other managers.)
  • Both positive and negative points should be discussed in the same session (just a few most important ones, so as not to overwhelm). And yes, strengths and weaknesses often are two sides of the same coin.
  • If there are plans to improve, follow-up should be frequent and supportive. Success is in everyone’s interest.

Great questions! I believe project teams that embrace feedback perform better.

At the team level, there is the Retrospective. This occurs every other week (at the end of an iteration for us) and provides an opportunity to review what has gone well and where we have opportunity. These meetings require some time before they are beneficial if the team is new or if an existing team is experimenting with it for the first time. If you are in one of the leadership positions (Dev Lead, Test Lead, Requirements Lead), I encourage you to offer positive, constructive examples of the good and the challenging. It may take some effort over a period of time to have everyone participate; stick with it, it will be worthwhile!

I also encourage personal feedback. When you are considering feedback for a team member, consider the person and the place. Discussing opportunities for improvement are best explored privately.
I agree with George. Specific examples are necessary when providing feedback - especially if there is an opportunity for improvement. Also, focus on a behavior. For example, for someone who is struggling with writing test cases, pick a few of the weak test cases and talk about them. Provide an opinion on why you believe they are weak, suggestions for improvement and why the improvement makes them stronger. When delivered in this manner, you express both support and confidence in their ability to improve. I strongly recommend the book “Crucial Conversations” for both simple and tough feedback. The Vital Smarts blog sometimes has great examples of delivering tough feedback.
Positive feedback is, as you might imagine, easier to deliver but requires the same consideration: focus on behavior, outcomes, or actions. This has a spectrum from a simple “Great job on those test cases!” to sending positive feedback to them through email and copying their manager. You may want to follow the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format.

My department also encourages and supports more formal feedback through public recommendation for recognition. An internal website collects information (in a STAR format) which is reviewed by a committee. The committee rewards individuals and teams a bonus. Additionally, the same system is used to publicly thank someone for a extra effort. When I use that system to thank someone, I wait until Friday - great way to start a weekend by being recognized for their efforts!


I have been in the position to give positive feedback in managerial positions, and positions within a team.

“Good job”, while somewhat a cliched platitude, I find works both effectively and efficiently. I find that the trick to this process is to use it sparingly, but meaningfully, whenever someone has done something impressive.

Sometimes when a good thing is done I might say “I liked the way you did < good thing>”.

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For team feedback, there is the classic retrospective or “lessons learned” session. Much of what is known about a team is carried around in the heads of its members. Representatives of downstream organizations can be helpful participants too. Typically the sessions are held after a significant milestone, but the right frequency and scope depend on the team and its work.
Successful retrospectives require objective, constructive conversation, which may be a challenge sometimes. Team members may find Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development relevant too. He describes phases of forming, storming, norming and performing.'s_stages_of_group_development

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We used Tuckman’s model when re-organising out EMEA IT department when I worked for a global healthcare company. It really worked for us and set a good foundation for the “difficult” conversations we would encounter.

In many of the responses above the one topic that seems to repeat is ensuring constructive conversation. This is true when trying to ensure feedback is provided for internal team members but is also highly relevant when dealing with other teams too (especially in any project retrospective activities).

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