Now that we've gone through the causes of people not sharing feedback with each other, let's see how we can solve this dilemma:
1. Focus on the “big" picture i.e. the process: Your team needs to realize that they're not here in this meeting to merely collect feedback; they're here to improve the process. You're trying to make your staff meetings more productive, you're trying to improve your shipping timelines, or you're trying to be a better and more effective leader to your team. Feedback is a way to learn more about what's going right in this process that you need to further stress, and what needs to be improved. And it's all about the process and the ways to make it better and more efficient.
You need to convey this message to your team, they need to know that without their feedback the process will remain the same; the staff meeting will remain the same, shipping time will remain the same, and you'll keep managing your team the same way you're managing them now. It's up to them to decide if they want to improve the process or not.
"Speaking up and sharing your thoughts can be painful sometimes, but keeping things running the same way they run now can be more painful. It's up to you to decide: do you want to speak up and try to get things done better? Or do you prefer to keep it for yourself and keep business running the same way it runs now?"
People tend to open up and overcome the "pain" of sharing feedback when they feel that they're the process owners. This sense of ownership turns their feedback from being a nice initiative into an obligation that they have to fulfill in order to improve the process that they own.
2. Structure your feedback: Create a structured system to provide and collect feedback. This system should be:
- Continuous: Feedback collection is not a one-time event; it’s a continued process that is integrated in business process. This continuous process of feedback collection should balance between getting enough streams of insights from the team without bombarding them one survey after another.
- Multi-channelled: The feedback collection system should focus on collaborative feedback collection and sharing insights with others, however it should also expands to allow members to provide feedback through other, indirect channels. That gives members who are more conservative about sharing their feedback the space and time to share their insight. Putting together such structured ways of managing feedback will: 1) encourage team members to participate, 2) streamline the feedback process to eliminate frictions and focus on objectivity, and 3) drives all members to participate as each member has a time slot to provide feedback.
Use open and collaborative techniques like brainstorming sessions and think tanks, but also use conservative techniques like online surveys and suggestion boxes to allow anonymousness.
- Well-designed: The frequency of feedback collection is important, and the quality of it is even more important. Your questions and discussions should provide enough space for people to share their experience and insights openly and freely, but at the same time should be specific enough to keep the focus around the process to be improved, preventing feedback from turning into a wish list.
3. Focus on performance improvement, not on problems or people: You learned to direct your feedback to be more process-focused, now you need to make sure that it’s not about the problems of the process, or the people who are causing those problems. It’s more about the ways and actions to take in order to improve this process.
"Staff meetings are too long, we need to make them shorter," "shipping times are so unpredictable, it causes us unexplained delays in delivery," "you're a good manager, but you're too strict when it comes to working hours, and this puts so much pressure on us." These are examples of feedback that you do not want from your team. They're objective and address true points that can be improved; yet they're not offering any suggestions for improvement. They're telling you what the team feels is wrong or what needs to be improved, but not telling you how to make it right or how to improve it.
Ask your team to come up with solutions, suggestions for improvements, and actions to be taken to improve the process rather than stating what they see imperfect without attempts to improve it. Encourage your team to describe what an ideal process may look like in their opinion, and what needs to be done to make the current process ideal. This is a much more productive approach than focusing on the drawbacks of the current process.
Feedback ≠/ problem, feedback = solution
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