In some companies, performance reviews and annual evaluations fill employees with a sense of dread or morbid anticipation.
What will they find out about their performance? How will they be rated? What ghosts from the past year will come back to haunt them?
The reason employees fear reviews so much is because their company doesn't have a good system for offering feedback.
Good feedback eliminates surprises. No one should be shocked when they sit down for their yearly review. If they are, that means there's a problem with the system of feedback in your company.
If you want your team to know where they stand--what they do well and where they can improve--then you have to develop a process for delivering real-time, continuous feedback.
The process itself will vary from company to company, but it should never leave team members feeling overly anxious.
Here's why a feedback process is a necessity for every startup:
Feedback helps you develop relationships.
You generally get the most--and the best--feedback from people who work closely with you.
That's because the more you get to know someone, and the closer your working relationship becomes, the easier it is for them to tell you the truth.
Good, open relationships develop when people feel comfortable telling each other what they really think. In a great work relationship, the person receiving feedback doesn't see it as criticism or an attack.
Instead, they see it as a gift--someone is helping them out.
The person giving the feedback is protecting them, making sure they don't continue doing something that "is in their blind spot." Meaning, it is something that others see, but you don't realize that you're doing it.
A process for delivering feedback ensures your team can develop these close relationships, and everyone feels comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
Feedback shows you care about your team.
You shouldn't be afraid to listen to feedback from another team member. But you should be worried when they go silent.
People often think feedback and criticism are synonymous, but they aren't. Someone is taking time out of their day to give you feedback, help you grow, and show you where you've gone wrong--or what you've done well. It should be positive and enlightening, even if it's about a mistake you made.
If no one is taking the time to give feedback in a startup, that's an indication they don't care. They don't care enough to help the people around them grow and get better, and they don't care about bettering themselves. If your startup has a process for giving feedback constructively, you are helping people grow, learn how they can improve, and further develop themselves as a leader and manager.
I also love it when team members solicit feedback directly. Recently, someone on my team asked me a question about an event we held, "How did you think it went?" It opened the dialogue, and we talked through what went well and what could be improved for next time.
It helps us understand our weaknesses.
Most of us are actually pretty terrible at evaluating our own performance.
At ThirdLove, we once had a situation where one of our senior team members was meeting with a potential vendor. And that team member was not acting as professionally as I would expect them to. They were being unusually aggressive with the vendor, and I was really uncomfortable listening to the conversation.
When I voiced my concerns after the meeting, that team member didn't initially know what I was talking about. They didn't realize how they were coming across until I pointed it out to them. The only way to communicate that and help them understand what happened was through feedback.
Without a good process for this, people never find out when they're doing something wrong--which makes it incredibly difficult to grow.
Feedback improves the way we listen.
Good feedback demands that the person receiving it is open and engaged with the process. And that means listening to the feedback in a specific manner.
There are two kinds of listening: passive and reflective.
Passive listening essentially means you're only listening to someone else in order to set up your next point. You're hearing what they're saying, but in your head, you're trying to decide how you'll counter it or use it to build your own position.
Reflective listening is much different. In this type of listening, the person receiving feedback is open enough to information that they give it a chance to change their mind. If they hear a cogent argument, they can be swayed. They aren't so locked into their own opinion that they dismiss or manipulate what they hear.
Reflective listening is what everyone in your company should be striving for when they get feedback. No getting defensive or making excuses. Just an open acceptance of--and reflection on--what's being offered. The more you encourage this type of listening and feedback, the more your team improves.
Good feedback never stops. None of us ever get to the point where we're doing everything perfectly and nothing could be better. There's always room to grow. And with a strong process in place for feedback, your team will always feel like they can improve.
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