At the core of Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage learn and grow. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 18-22, EO is hosting EO24/7, a five-day, free virtual learning event aimed at empowering entrepreneurs with skills and strategies to reach new levels of leadership.
Andrew McConnell is an EO member in Atlanta and CEO of Rented.com, which ranked No. 389 on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing privately held companies. We asked Andrew how he motivates and inspires his team through a unique feedback system. Here's what he shared:
A couple of times each year we ask team members what they like most about working in our company. We're always looking for ways to change and improve, but we also realize the value in understanding what needs to stay the same. A recent response drove this point home for me.
To the question, one team member answered: "We don't just ask for feedback; we also act on it." This response immediately reminded me of the "curse of knowledge," where once you know something, you can't remember what it was like not to know that thing.
At our company, this active pursuit of feedback to drive continuous improvement is so ingrained that we often take it for granted. As our team grows and new members experience our methods, I am reminded that some of our ways of working are far from the norm. In an attempt to make them more mainstream, I'm sharing an easy-to-remember acronym that will help you get the most from your employees and team members: SLACK.
No, I am not talking about the popular workplace communication tool, though in full disclosure: We do also use that Slack and love it. Instead, I'm talking about a process where you:
- Solicit feedback.
- Listen to what is shared.
- Act on what you hear.
- Credit the source. And then:
- Keep doing it!
Let's unpack those five steps:
A lot of people and companies say they are open to feedback. Others go even further and say they want it. But far fewer actively solicit that feedback. An open-door policy isn't enough. As a leader, you can't sit back and expect or hope others will come to you. You have to meet them where they are. I accomplish this by physically walking the halls of our office, and scheduling quarterly one-to-ones with various team members. We've also created anonymous channels for those who may be too shy or introverted to share feedback in person. As a result, we get much more--and much more detailed--feedback than we otherwise might.
Asking for feedback cannot be a self-serving, pat-yourself-on-the-back task. It must come from a place of wanting that feedback. Therefore, when someone is taking the time and opening up enough to share their observations, make sure you listen attentively. Don't glance at your phone or any other screen. Make eye contact. Stay present. Don't just tell the person you appreciate her sharing the feedback, show her you do.
Nothing wrecks a well-intentioned policy of accepting feedback like ignoring it. If people don't see any changes, they will shut down. What's the point? Why waste their time? Why put themselves out there? With that said, every suggestion you receive won't merit action. And even if it is a good idea, the timing might not be right. Sometimes the right action is inaction, but couple that inaction with an explanation as to why the suggestion isn't being acted upon, or at least not implemented right now. Communication itself can be the action needed, but silence is unacceptable.
Another way to lose people's trust--and decrease their willingness to share feedback--is to take credit for their ideas. That's why I make a point of crediting the individual over and over at our company. Whether it's our process for sharing and iterating on quarterly priority "rocks" in our Vision/Traction Organizer that came about as a direct result of Solanda's feedback, or the superior performance at conferences this year thanks to the preparation by and suggestions from Jess, I make sure the team knows the source. Unsurprisingly, we are blessed with more and better ideas flowing in continuously.
5. Keep doing it
This step is critical. The process of soliciting and then acting upon feedback must become so ingrained in your company's way of working that it is a habit. It should be such a standard part of the day-to-day that you too will have the curse of knowledge and forget what it's like not to operate in this way. You hired your team members for a reason. Likely because they are intelligent, hardworking and driven people. Give them the "slack" they need to go further and farther, and they will drive you and your business to new heights of success.