Feedback is a seemingly easy to implement process but there’s a whole bunch of subtle skills tagged to it. When providing feedback, you need to make sure that your message is going to be perceived in a constructive way. The foundation to a positive perception is trust: trust between team members and trust in the management. Team members and managers need to be able to speak up and share their points of views in front of the entire team. How do you create this kind of environment of trust?
1. Be Transparent
Transparency starts with the management. Be transparent through all the different experiences the company goes through; only through sharing both the happy and difficult times will you have people engaged and fully understanding where they work. Without transparency, employees feel like they are only a small part of a big machine; they don’t see the big picture and, therefore, don’t feel important in the company.
- During meetings, don’t be afraid to talk about the challenges the business may be facing or the issues that need to be resolved inside the team
- Look for body language signs that indicate that people are confused or in disagreement. Confront those signs in a non-aggressive way so your team and company can learn, grow, and ultimately thrive.
- In every meeting, create a space where people can express their thoughts about what was discussed.
- Once a month, make sure you create a space during a meeting where people can openly talk about whatever is bothering them. Tell your team in advance so they can prepare for it.
2. Be Honest
Be open and honest at all times. Make sure that you openly discuss all the good and bad news. Try to promote conversations where people feel comfortable expressing opposed points of views. This change towards honesty will not happen easily, and it will take a lengthy transition.
- When people express themselves, do not interrupt them; let them finish what they have to say. If you have people in your team that tend to talk for a long time, set clear time limits for each participant before you start the turns so people know they have a limited amount of time. If you do that, you will be able to cut people off.
- Always communicate in a non-aggressive way. When you are honest about things that didn’t go so well, explain them without looking for the person that is guilty. Instead, guide your team into performing better. It is important that you focus on improvements from a non-guilty perspective.
3. Provide Security
Team members need to feel secure. They need to know exactly what their roles are, what is expected of them, and that they will not be punished for expressing their opinions and for trying to break paradigms.
Remember that when we are trying to improve processes, sometimes that means transforming or throwing away what the manager created. Be open about these changes that come from your team. They will not threaten your position; they will make your team and you, as a manager, stronger.
- Set clear expectations so team members know where to stand.
- Share information about how the team is doing with the goals in relation to the company’s objectives.
- Be transparent about changes that might be coming to the team, in terms of downsizing, and also when there are new opportunities for promotions. When we are not sure about our positions, we can feel threatened and that can have a negative effect on our productivity levels, so make sure that you and your company are as transparent as possible.
4. Avoid Politics
Gossip and politics destroy teams and demotivate all who are not interested in being part of the game. In order to create a safe environment, you will need to fight against politics.
- If you already have a team that has some unwanted dynamics, start by asking yourself how you are contributing to these dynamics. Analyze when they happen, what you are doing to promote them, and what you could do to avoid them.
- Have a short session with your team to talk about the need to stop politics. Give generic examples of communication that are okay and that are not okay.
- The best way to avoid politics is to have objectives and performance indicators that can be easily measured and that don’t depend on subjectivity.
Try to aim for a relaxed and friendly environment where people have time to create bonds and find synergies. This will help you during the stressful times that will, for sure, arrive at some point. If your team members know that they can trust each other, they will perform as a team when pressure comes from the outside.
- Make sure your team members know each other well; not so much on a personal level, but where they know the skills and strengths of the rest of the team. Self-assessment tools can help you achieve that level of knowledge.
- Promote participation in transversal projects so new bonds are created.
- Promote work exchanges so people can get out of their routines and help others improve their everyday tasks.
Measure and Improve
In order to know what you are doing right and what still needs to be improved, take a lean approach:
Ask yourself how safe the environment is and measure each point:
- Is there a safe atmosphere in my team that promotes good communication and team work?
- Are the current methods working?
- In which situations are we transparent? Why? How can you reproduce that in other situations?
- Which meetings currently have a safe environment? Which don’t? Why?
- Are there any obvious gaps in communication between the company, the managers, and the team?
- Do we achieve the desired level of participation during meetings?
- Does each team member feel heard and understood?
- Do we speak the truth in a direct way?
- Are we open in solving conflicts/challenges?
- Are we honest in our communication?
- Are we assertive and non-aggressive when we provide feedback?
- Using an anonymous survey, ask your team to evaluate how safe they feel. You can use online survey tools, like Google Forms and Survey Monkey to easily create a survey and send it out to your team. To allow your anonymous survey to happen systematically where each survey is done with a communication strategy in mind and includes analysis to extract insights, try InviPulse out. If your company is already using a system to learn more about the mood in the team, use that as a departing point.
- Have a short meeting where people can propose ideas about how to improve the level of trust. Before the meeting, send a short email so they can prepare beforehand. If your team members are having a hard time coming up with ideas, ask them about a time when they were part of a team where they felt like they could talk about anything at any point in time. What was that group of people like? What were the dynamics? Could some of them be reproduced in the office? Start with what the team members can remember rather than bringing new ideas from outside. This way, you will have less resistance to change.
Create A Plan
- Define what your objectives are.
- Based on the points listed in this article, define strategies you will try.
- Set up a deadline for each action.
- Define how you are going to measure the impact of your actions.
Measure The Progress
Measure how your team is doing before you start being more conscious about creating a safe environment and measure your team’s sensation of safety and trust on a weekly and monthly basis.
After each team meeting, send a 2-question survey to your team. It will take them literally 30 seconds to reply. Ask very similar questions every time so they can guide you and you can gain from their conclusions, but don’t always ask the same questions. Try to elaborate simple questions like:
- How comfortable did you feel in this meeting?
- I was able to talk about everything.
- I was able to talk about almost anything; some things were be hard to say.
- I was able to talk about some things, but others I couldn’t say.
- I couldn’t say what I thought; I let others bring up the issues.
- I was quiet, pretending that everything was great and agreed with what my manager said.
- How did you feel in the meeting?
- Like an explorer, ready to conquer the project and active about everything.
- Like a shopper, ready to listen what the others were saying and maybe agree on something they said.
- Like a vacationer, enjoying the meeting and looking at the hours go by.
- Like a prisoner.
At the end of every month, send a longer (5 questions max) survey to evaluate the progress of your actions to improve the feeling of safety at work.
Analyze The Results
- Try to find patterns of moments and meetings that had a high level of safety and identify why that were. Try to reproduce those moments.
- When analyzing the results, try to see the big picture: is it because of the people attending? Is it the day of the week? Is it the topic? Does the level of trust depend on how close we are to our deadline?
- When a report cycle ends, whether it is monthly or quarterly, evaluate the results of your surveys about trust and safety levels and compare them with the objectives that the team has in terms of completion of projects, customer satisfaction, etc., depending on what your team’s goals are.
Now that you know what works and what doesn’t, eliminate the ideas and processes that didn’t work and tune up the ones that did so your team can sustain a good level of trust, even during hard times. After a few months, you should start to see an increase in the sensation of safety that goes together with an increase in the level of confidence during feedback sessions and the overall effectiveness of the team.
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