No Time for Bullsh**. Feedback Culture.
What I value in life are honesty and transparency.** I really encourage people I work with to voice their opinions, ideas or disappointments and to ask a lot of questions. When someone does not ask, I assume everything is clear. Guessing and overinterpreting are not my things. And I think that rumours, gossiping or internal tittle-tattles are not the way strong, responsible and supporting teams are built. If a company really wants to grow, employees should be open to tell the truth and hear the truth about themselves. It doesn’t matter if we talk with our boss, manager or colleague, being honest is an important step towards integrity.
But creating an atmosphere and culture in the workplace that foster such behaviours is demanding and it may involve many arduous, difficult and sometimes even unpleasant conversations. We all know that talking about one’s flaws or areas which need improvement is hard, but it also empowers the team to step up and fix the appearing problems. And to my view it is a key feature of mature and responsible teams.
Honesty builds trust and confidence. Voicing the truth enables us to identify the issue and then work on it as a team. I would say that the more transparent and caring the work environment is, the happier we are there both as employees and leaders.
Collaborative workplace culture thrives on teamwork where every team member can bring their point of view to the table. It is crucial to give each person in a team freedom and space to be honest even though we might sometimes strongly disagree with what they have to say. We should not judge the opinions, instead we should listen carefully, authentically and attentively. We should foster open, non-judgemental dialogues among team members and we should give space and time which are needed for that.
At Bright Inventions we are fostering the culture of continuous feedback from the very beginning. It is visible in our marketing communication, recruitment processes, during onboarding and later on while working together on the projects.
I am really trying to be as open and crystal-clear as possible from the first moment I meet someone who may want to join our team. You will always hear from me both pros and cons regarding potential cooperation, particular projects adn everyday work. At follow-up or check-in meetings you can also hear like mantra that we need to know if everything is ok and if not, we should talk about it. During first three months of cooperation we organise at least seven meetings to share regular feedback. Project managers have also short weekly feedback sessions with each and every member of their teams. We take care of what you think and how you feel. It is important to us to know what kind of plans people have, what their aspirations are and what kind of ideas they come up with.
Communicate the Positive and the Negative
At the end of the day there will be always things that need some improvement. But there are also a lot of things that are done really well and this positive voice should be always heard from employees and leadership. Whether it is through an e-mail, newsletter, or quarterly staff meeting, everyone should say what they think is working and what is not. It is important to focus on the positive, as well as acknowledge the negative. Good communication is the most important way to foster honest environment.
It is a continuous process. We do not want to wait till the end of the year to talk about how we are doing, what we are feeling and what our plans are. We do that on daily basis and I believe that is the way to bond the team itself since we we can express ourselves anytime we need. Every moment is good to voice an opinion, share what causes your frustration or just praise someone for what they did.
Acts Speak Louder Than Words
It is not enough to talk with people. We really have to DO something about how they feel and what they say. I always analyse any suggestion I get from someone in my team. If an idea cannot be implemented, an explanation should follow the manager’s decision. If we have the team who cares and who actually wants something to change for better, our duty is to take all the steps to implement their ideas. Every employee’s opinion matters.
The diversity of opinions is said to increase the quality of our decisions.* A group of different people with own backgrounds and visions can cover much more of possible paths and solutions than you can do alone. It is good when leaders and managers have to promote open communication and encourage team members to voice their opinions and talk honestly about what they think. And then they should act on the feedback they get. If you are a manager and you have a meeting with someone from your team, always plan a follow-up and come back to the discussion if some steps have to be implemented.
If you are giving feedback regarding some area of improvement, let us try to give also some suggestions or tips. Maybe it would be good to create a plan of actions. Only when you devote time to acting on the feedback, you will begin to create some positive changes in your organizational culture.
Teamwork and Responsibility
Griping just to gripe probably has not taken anyone anywhere. We should voice an opinion, but at the same time we should be prepared to offer some solution to the problems we see. I understand that sometimes everyone needs to complain a bit and give vent to their emotions, but it should be never about blaming others or putting the burden of solving the problem on someone else. If you are a manager you should help your team feel comfortable receiving feedback from each other. It is never about personal critiques.
Feedback is a way to strengthen the ideas, it is a sign that we take care of each other and we want to improve as the team. We should listen, analyse and respond to the input. Even if my opinion is something you may not like, you should not take it as a disapproval or condemnation.
When I can see that someone is making mistakes I am telling this person about that - it only means that I am caring about them, about the team and about the company. It means that I feel responsible not only for myself but also for people I work with and the job we do together. I know that it might be scary at first, especially if you have to share some negative feedback. But in order to foster our own team, we have to share feedback honestly, openly and regularly. If we are missing a deadline, it needs to be discussed immediately. If someone in our team messed up, we have to talk, analyse what went wrong and put it right. If someone did a great job, let us show our appreciation and gratitude immediately. Don’t wait for any special occasion. Giving feedback is a process, not an unusual event.
It is not about you or me
Remember that feedback is not about us, it is about our behaviour and actions. Either praise or criticism should be about work, not personality. Do not personalise feedback you give. Consider situational factors that could affect the action you describe and do not use personality attributes to explain that. When you disagree with someone, keep it about the issue. Effective criticism needs to be delivered with respect and care.
But if feedback is always about another person’s behaviour what does it mean that we should avoid personalisation? How can it be not personalised? First of all we should avoid giving labels, classifying and categorising people. If someone in your team is not effective and does not get their job done, let us not call them lazy oraz careless. In such a way we would focus not on the real cause of the situation but on the symptoms. Talk about the true reasons why they behave like that. Stick to the facts, describe the impact their behaviour have on the others in a team, on a client and on the whole organisation. Listen to their perspective. The fact that people fail is usually connected with many different factors. By giving feedback we should try to understand another person.
We should perceive feedback as a method of self-development, both as an individual and as a team. It is not about being insensitive or arrogant, it is about taking care of each other.
No one likes bullsh**
Let us face it - no one likes bullsh**. If you slipped up, would you like that people in your team pretend they didn't see anything? If you performed not very well, would you like your manager didn't say a word? If you asked your colleagus for honest feedback, would you expect them to say only positive things just because they like you?
Feedback makes us grow. Sometimes it is positive, sometimes it is not. Don’t give people bulsh** just because you are afraid of telling the truth. If you work in a mature environment, everyone will appreciate knowing that they can do something better. Otherwise we would all get stuck in our pinky imaginary world of ego-satisfaction, fakery and adulation.
** In fact there are also a few other things I value in life. 😉
*** Kudos for Jurgen Appelo and Management 3.0 style.