Everyone wants to be loved, but it doesn’t happen all the time. When you work together so much, you think that you might hear the inside dialog of what’s wrong and what can be improved. You have to go out of your way to be open to feedback (and ultimately, criticism) and be willing to act on those changes.
When we reached 25-30 employees and started to have people that didn’t report to the top, that was the first step. No longer was the core team in direct oversight of everyone and that meant it took effort to get real feedback.
Finding The Pulse
As the company has gotten bigger, it has gotten harder to get the true pulse. There are more people, the issues are more complicated and there are more potential outcomes. There are more people with managers and their own aversions to feedback and criticism.
As departments or functions have also grown, they have their own personalities and criticisms. There might be three or four people in a group who collectively have a particular opinion but individually, it might be different.
I’ve found that you have to listen, but you actually have to ask questions, poke and prod. During reviews, we ask what are the best and worst parts of the job. People want to see things fixed if they have an environment that is supportive, trusting and welcoming. My suggestion is to have casual conversations with people and see where people are getting stuck or frustrated.
Sometimes, It’s Hard
The hardest part about feedback is that’s it’s always imperfect information. There is usually a color, nuance or other factor that is embedded in what you hear. It takes dialog to comprehend what it means. People don’t say whats really on their minds because they don’t want to hurt their relationship with their managers, they don’t want to disappoint or some other reason. An environment of trust makes the information better.
Once you gather information, you have to act on it. Some people will complain all the time (hopefully about real stuff that should get fixed) but if you don’t see your ideas valued, you stop contributing. Sometimes it takes trying ideas out. Find people who have a vested interest and try things out.
In the quest to get more and better information, what would you do? How do you learn what’s going on?