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Power Dynamics and the Art of Feedback

Feedback is a gift, but when it travels uphill in the hierarchy, it comes wrapped in layers of anxiety, fear, and power dynamics.

I experienced this firsthand when a team member in her role as a ScrumMaster decided to give me feedback. I, a Senior Developer, Team Lead, and Agile Coach, was about to receive a lesson in humility and understanding.

I still remember her nervousness, the tremor in her voice, the carefully chosen words reflecting her meticulous preparation. The topic was a sensitive one—we had conflicting views about the team’s direction. I was focused on reaching our goal, powering through tasks, and working long hours. But in doing so, I had overlooked the importance of sharing knowledge and nurturing the team’s growth.

Her feedback was well-defined, precise, and hard to swallow. There was pride at stake, and a gnawing sense of underappreciation. I felt the weight of my power, the temptation to pull rank, to use my experience as a shield against her critique. But I had learned about Nonviolent Communication, Active Listening, and power dynamics. I knew this wasn’t the time to wield power—it was the time to listen, learn, and grow.

Active listening and a growth mindset were my anchors in this conversation. It was essential to appreciate her courage in speaking up and see this as an opportunity to improve as a leader.

Looking back, I feel immense pride that our team fostered an environment where such courageous conversations could take place. Here are some key learnings from my experience:

✹ Be Aware of Power Dynamics: Understand the influence of hierarchical structures in feedback conversations.
✹ Encourage Feedback: Foster an environment that welcomes open dialogue. ✹ Make yourself available and approachable as a leader.
✹ Apply a Growth Mindset: View feedback as an opportunity for improvement, not a personal attack.
✹ Practice Active Listening: Show empathy, keep an open mind, and ensure understanding.
✹ Honor Courage: Recognize and appreciate the bravery it takes for team members to speak their truth.

Have you ever been in a similar situation, either as the one giving or receiving feedback? How did you navigate it? Share your experiences below.

Feedback Leadership Communication PowerDynamics ProfessionalDevelopment


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