Communication skills: what your team say, and what they really mean...

employees communicating in a meeting
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Getting feedback from your team is a key part of employee engagement, but it's what you do with that information that really counts. 

Feedback is an incredibly powerful tool; it’s something that can help uncover issues your team might be facing or on the flip side, to better recognise the things you’re doing well.

As a manager, it creates a two-way dialogue with the people you work with and opens the door to future opportunity - from empowering your team to tackle problems together, to helping drive gains in performance, happiness and more.

How managers elicit feedback from their teams, however, can often be a more difficult task. If they’re lucky enough to collect some meaningful data, the question is what to do with it next.

One of the best ways to do something about the data you have is to get the team together and discuss what’s been raised.

I’ve seen the power of this in action and how talking about things can help you uncover some amazing things, especially when what the team says isn’t always what they might mean...

The power of a conversation

We have a meeting every week where we take a retrospective view on what happened the previous week. Now when I say what happened, that’s specifically in context of how it happened.

To do this, we use a platform we created that helps teams continuously improve by tracking morale, identifying issues and recognising achievements.

The key is to have the conversation. If you don’t, you might miss what’s lying just beneath the surface.

Each week, we record what’s called our ‘vibe’ to say how our week at work was and what factors influenced it. All the data is aggregated in a transparent way so as a team we have the right context to chat through how we’re doing, what’s going well and what could be improved.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Recently, after everyone had recorded their weekly vibe the previous Friday, the system identified our number one weakness as workload - but what did that actually mean? Too much work? Not enough? Not the right type? It was time for a conversation.

We have a meeting every week where we take a retrospective view on what happened the previous week.

On the Monday morning we got together and brought up the latest results on a big screen behind us. The fact that workload was there shouldn’t have been a surprise; being a tech startup the hours we work can be long and intense. Despite this, we wanted to explore it in more detail.

As we went around the room something interesting started to happen. People started to reveal how they weren’t actually frustrated about the amount of work they had on. Far from it, they loved the intensity and were so passionate about it!

What they were worried about, however, was leaving the office at 6pm if other teammates were still working away. It was the same if they weren’t available to respond to messages at 11pm at night. They felt guilty and thought they were letting the team down.

It was quite beautiful really - seeing an issue raised, discussed, putting a small iteration in place and seeing a great result.

Small iteration, fast resolution, happy team

It’s fair to say we were horrified to hear this, particularly as we’re a small team (there are only 12 of us) where culture is high on the agenda. The last thing we want is any team member to feel like they’re letting us down, especially when they work so hard.

So there and then we made a small simple change: we announced that at 6pm, everyone packs up and heads off for the night. What happens after that is up to you: you can keep working but no one is expected to be available. If it’s urgent, we give each other a call.

As we said this, there was a collective sigh across the room. People smiled. It was quite beautiful really - seeing an issue raised, discussed, putting a small iteration in place and seeing a great result.

Keep the lines open

Capturing real-time feedback and encouraging a culture of continuous improvement can be incredibly powerful. It can uncover things you never even knew were there, stop small issues from turning into big ones and identify what you’re already doing well.

The key is to have the conversation. If you don’t, you might miss what’s lying just beneath the surface and find yourself focusing on the wrong thing instead.

Interested in this topic? Read How to create a healthy feedback culture.

About Tim Mullen

Tim Mullen

Tim is Co-Founder and Head of Customer Experience at Jobvibe. We helps teams continuously improve by tracking morale, identifying issues and recognising achievements.

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21st Oct 2016 10:05

Nice article, Tim! Problem-solving at its best.

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