I’m off on vacation this week spending some time with the home team.  I thought it was a great opportunity to try out my first guest post.  I’m thrilled to bring you this post from David Hassell, the CEO of software company 15Five.  They have been pioneering new ways of creating ongoing and transparent communications between team leaders and their teams. As you can imagine, that gives David a unique perspective on the topic of team effectiveness.  Enjoy!

If you survived the tech bubble of the early 2000’s, then you’re familiar with all the downsizing that occurred. Many (or most) companies ended up combining departments to save money. QA analysts were suddenly working with Technical Writers, Marketing people were on a team with Sales reps, and HR worked side-by-side with Accounting.

This often lead to some interesting team goals and deadlines. Leadership of these disparate teams was also a challenge. What worked for one discipline, didn’t always work for another. Managers might have had relationships with one half of their team, and then knew nothing about the other half. Resentment would build and rumors would fly. Suddenly you were finding resumes on the printer, and the entire culture of your company had changed.

If you had a good relationship with your entire team, and good organizational communication with the rest of the company, this may not have happened. As you found out, there were at least a few things your team wasn’t telling you that are still very relevant today, despite the previous bubble…

Secret #1 – Employees Want (and Need) Feedback from YOU!

Yes, you read that right, employees WANT feedback. They want to hear about what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Give them the feedback on a regular basis, and not only does their productivity increase, but your overall business performance does too. A side benefit is that your boss will also notice, making you look good in the process.

How to Do It Right: Provide weekly feedback to your team. It need only take five minutes of your time and it will produce incredible insight into your employees happiness, productivity and performance. It may even surface issues you never knew existed that best be acted on immediately.

Secret #2 – Relationships are Two-Way Streets

Seeking out and listening to employee feedback is also important. We’re not talking about a recap of their weekend or personal lives, but rather, an update on their work.  Asking for their feedback shows that you’re not only looking at the big picture for the business, but also looking at the details.  In a Fierce survey on employee relationships, 75% said their relationships with their bosses have a direct impact on their job satisfaction.

Employee feedback gives you a different perspective on things, which in turn, can make you a better leader. Perhaps there are items you didn’t consider when you made your initial decision. Remember, you’re often focused on the big picture, so you may miss important insights that your employees can give you. Be open to their ideas and let them know constructive feedback is a two-way street. You’re listening. And they feel heard.

How to Do It Right: Seek out your employee’s feedback BEFORE pushing out a new procedure to your team. They’ll help you work out the kinks before everyone needs to use it. Get their input and their buy-in and you’ll find amazing adoption rates. You hired them for a reason, so foster that trust by deepening that relationship. They’ll reward you by trusting their own instincts and being more proactive.

Secret #3 – Let Them Work on Their Own

Your team may be working towards a common goal, but that doesn’t mean your employees can’t work independently. You’ll need to loosen the reins at a certain point and let them work on their own. Employee engagement satisfaction with their work increases once you stop micro-managing them. They start to trust their own instincts and creativity, and as a result, collaboration soars. Remember, autonomy doesn’t mean working in a silo. They’ll work together towards that common goal.

How to Do It Right: According to Halley Bock, president & CEO of Fierce, Inc, “Crate & Barrel’s long-standing investment in autonomy has resulted in industry-leading associate longevity and low turnover.”

Secret #4 – When They Don’t Know What to Do, They’ll Ask

All of these previous four points lead to this final one: if you have a good relationship with your employee and solid communication, they won’t feel shy about asking for direction. If you’ve seen the Seinfeld episode, The Bottle Deposit, you’ll recognize this situation:

Your boss assigns you an important project, but you missed half of the explanation when he assigned it to you. In order to avoid looking silly, you don’t ask him any questions, but try to figure out what the project is. Days and weeks go by, and you still have no clue. You delay handing it in to your boss, because you don’t want to look incompetent.

George doesn’t have a good enough relationship with his boss for him to ask for more information. In the end, he finds out he did a great job but he can’t figure out who did it or really what it was all about.

But if you know about the four other secrets I talked about in this article, then your employees never hesitate to come to you with questions.

How to Do It Right: Leave time in your regular one-on-one meeting to really hear from them –what are their questions, feedback, and valuable insights? After assigning work to your team, leave time for a quick Q&A. If they have more in-depth questions, let them know that your door is always open, and then take the time to speak with them when they come to you.

Taking the time to find out what secrets your employees are hiding can lead to increased team productivity and higher employee engagement. In the end, your employees will want to stay and work on your team, and there may be less secrets to uncover.

About the Author

David Hassell is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of 15Five, a software company focused on producing transparency and alignment in organizations through structured, efficient and effective communication practices. David has also been named The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley by Forbes.

Further Reading

When Feedback Triggers Backlash

Checklist for Effective Business Communication

Manage People as Individuals

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