3 Ways To Make Feedback Core To Your Small Business Culture

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Stacy Sheldon, Managing Partner at POMIET, remembers a pivotal period of time for one of the emerging stars at POMIET.

The team member—who was new to the company—came to the company with a great deal of potential. Just like with all team members, he participated in a monthly one-on-one interaction where employees reflect on, share, and solicit feedback around their development.

During his first monthly meeting, growth and development goals were set. It was a two-way conversation about what could help him advance his career and what could help him grow as a leader.

Next steps were plotted out for what he could be working on during the upcoming months to meet his goals.

The second month’s conversation included a check-in on where he was at: “What have you been doing and how is that going?”

The team member was doing some of his action items, but not all.

Then, the third month, it was a similar conversation. Something wasn’t quite right, so Stacy and the employee’s manager wanted to explore what might be getting in the way.

“He’s not taking the ball and running with it. Is it because he doesn’t know how? Is it because this isn’t a fit? Is it because he doesn’t want to?”

It was a great opportunity to pause and give the new employee some honest feedback.

“We are a couple months into this. This is about you and your growth and your development. It’s something that you will take, as far as you want to. We are here to help you and support you, but we can’t do it for you.”

The conversation continued. “We were able to share that we were not seeing the progress we had thought we would see at that point,” adds Stacy.

A Pivotal Response to the Feedback

After hearing this feedback, about a week or two later, the employee’s behavior shifted.

“He was a whole new person,” says Stacy. “He was much more engaging, and you could see him working to come out of his shell.”

As time continued, the new team member became involved in the developer community. He also started speaking at events.

Within six months, he was on a completely different career trajectory than he had been prior to that pivotal conversation. “He stepped up. He started to grow exponentially,” says Stacy.

If they hadn’t been in the habit of soliciting and providing regular feedback, Stacy isn’t sure that conversation would have happened in time. “The way feedback can play out in an organization—if you do it every year, or every six months—in that case, this wouldn’t have been caught. He gained so much, and we gained so much by being able to see a pattern start in less than 90 days, and then being able to have a candid discussion to address it,” says Stacy.

 Feedback is an opportunity to shed light on what’s going on . Because whatever it is, or whatever is going on, it’s there—whether you know it or not.”

With that in mind, here are 3 lessons we can learn from POMIET when it comes to creating a similar feedback-friendly culture.

1. Recognize feedback is information

At POMIET, team members recognize that feedback is information. “Sometimes people can put feedback in a negative light,” explains Stacy. “It doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to be bad. This is great information that gives you an opportunity to learn new things and to strengthen relationships and to take your solutions to the next level,” she explains.

“I try to keep ‘feedback’ as neutral or unlabeled as I can,” adds Stacy, pointing out a major mindset shift many leaders can make. Instead of labeling feedback one way or another, team members see feedback as a way of gathering information to see what they can learn.

POMIET has a three-part formula for what contributes to great work:

  • Clear goals where you can see progress
  • Clear and timely feedback
  • Balance between skill level and challenge

When those factors come together, that’s when team members tend to do their best work. “In that formula, feedback is right in the middle. So feedback is so critical and it’s so important to doing our best work.”

2. Use qualitative and quantitative feedback

Seeing feedback as information means that feedback can go well beyond customer surveys or employee surveys. Those are great tools, but you can get feedback a variety of ways to get the whole story.

At POMIET, feedback is a combination of quantitative and qualitative.

“These provide us with perspectives. A big thing about perspective is recognizing that people don’t see things the same way you do. You want to have that feedback to get those perspectives,” she explains. “The data tells one story, but hearing insights and perspectives from other people—that tells another story—and one without the other is incomplete.”

Besides regular one-on-one interactions, POMIET team members use multiple ways to gather inputs and perceptions, including but not limited to:

  • Written input (from employees and clients)
  • Metrics that tie to goals and deliverables (team-based and project-based)
  • Interactions with clients on a three-week basis to get specific feedback
  • Informal check-ins and conversations with individual team members
  • Company-wide, monthly lunch meetings
  • Peer 360 surveys

Questions asked during employee interactions can be as simple as: How’s it going?

And at the monthly, company-wide meeting, it’s another chance to have a two-way conversation about culture, including what the company values mean, what the values look like, and how that connects with expectations.

“Then we can hear back from the team, too,” explains Stacy. That could include asking questions such as: How are you seeing this? What are your thoughts? What can be better? What are some examples of where it’s playing out or where this has been missing in the past?”

3. Use feedback to add to your culture

Another form of information-sharing happens through email at POMIET. Whenever a team member sees something worth recognizing, they’re able to email a note that recognizes a colleague’s behavior in a “recognition email” that’s sent to a designated email address.

“This was an informal process that we encouraged people to do, and we tracked who was submitting them, and who was receiving them.” After about a month, they could see how more and more people were submitting emails to give others recognition and praise.

“It’s an example where feedback is positive, and is adding to our culture,” says Stacy. “It was a great way for us to shine a light on what we want to encourage and what we want to see.”

This article was originally published at Forbes.

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