Giving, and getting feedback is awkward. It's easy to ignore the need for it while we're caught up in projects and not take the time to properly think about how things are going on a higher level.
Your coworkers or reports could be doing a better job. They're unwittingly blocking or slowing things down. They may feel the same about you. The problem is, these small niggling things, left unchecked, grow. They risk damaging relationships, projects and ultimately satisfaction at work.
We've found that taking the time to open up channels to both give and receive feedback before things get chaotic is critical.
1:1s have become something of a standard practice, but there's a huge difference between a quality 1:1 and a 1:1 done just for the sake of it.
We've been doing 1:1s since the start of Slite. They take time but are the meetings with the best ROI so far. There are many guides prescribing how to run effective 1:1s. Here's some things that work for us and other companies we talked to.
“The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting.
This is the free-form meeting for all the pressing issues, brilliant ideas and chronic frustrations that do not fit neatly into status reports, email and other less personal and intimate mechanisms.”
— Ben Horowitz
Co-founder and partner, A16Z
Chris lays out the most important things 1:1s bring us here at Slite.
“The end goal of 1:1s is to build something exceptional on 2 levels. On the team level, for every Slite employee to have an ideal set up to thrive in. And on the product level, to create a world-class, widely adopted tool.
These two are impossible if we don't acknowledge our mistakes and get better every day. 1:1s are a kind of ceremony to force continuous improvement.”
— Christophe Pasquier
Mark Rabkin of Facebook makes sure to set a tone that encourages talking about the awkward issues people are afraid to say, that often have the most impact.
“Very often, people waste most of the 1:1s potential. You might make a little agenda, and then give some updates, some light feedback, and share some complaints. It’s helpful and valuable and nice. But, ask yourself: is the conversation hard? Are you a little nervous or unsure how to get out what you’re trying to say? Is it awkward?
Because if it’s not a bit awkward, you’re not talking about the real stuff.”
— Mark Rabkin
VP Ads & Business Platform @ Facebook, The Art of the Awkward 1:1
Mathilde Collin, Front's CEO, shared valuable advice and templates on how the 1:1s at Front in this great article.
“Every one-on-one is set up as a recurring event and unless one of us is on PTO or out sick, we never reschedule! It’s critical to demonstrate that this time is important. I have a recurring event on Mondays where I spend 45 minutes prepping for that week’s one-on-ones.”
— Mathilde Collin
Front does three different types of 1:1. Examples of their templates below:
It's no surprise that performance reviews can loom over employees and managers alike as something to be feared rather than a moment for personal growth.
In 1997 only 7% of companies felt very satisfied about their performance review process, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.
Pioneering companies like Adobe, Facebook, Google and Airbnb, among others have attempted to renew the performance evaluation into a real growth opportunity for both employees and manager.
Having grown up in the connected digital world of immediacy, millennials tend to feel more comfortable with shorter feedback cycles. Quarterly or monthly reviews give more frequent opportunities for growth, reassurance and course correction.
On top of making the process more agile and light, shorter cycles help to combat recency bias that occurs with single end-of-year reviews, wherein an entire year's achievements can be reduced in favour of the previous 6 weeks that are more top-of-mind.
Rather than directly telling the employee what went went wrong and prescribing a 10-step correction plan, questions like "what do you think went well?" or "what have you learned in the last 3 months?" can turn a top-down evaluation into a collaborative coaching session. The employee is more curious and involved in directing their own career. Check our performance review templates for examples.
“The focus has shifted from talking about people to talking with people in open conversations.”
— Deloitte on Performance Management (2017)
Rather than being reviewed from the report's manager only, a review from not only managers, but themselves and their peers too can help to reduce bias and give deeper insight. Managers should also receive feedback from their reports, reversing the traditional roles.
“Feedback is huge at Doist, and it’s given and requested often. We've always encouraged open communication that is independent of levels and titles. This allows us all to truly benefit from the diverse perspectives on our team.”
— Andrew Gobran
People Operations, Doist
Even in teams like Doist, where giving and receiving feedback is part of the DNA, it can be difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach on how and when to give that feedback, but the simple "Start, Stop, Continue" approach seems to work as a general starting point.
“Ease of giving and receiving feedback varies from person to person, especially in a culturally diverse team. We often use the “Start, Stop, Continue” framework to communicate feedback. It provides structure to feedback delivery when needed and is a good reminder that feedback comes in multiple forms. It can be used to encourage someone to start a new practice, to stop something that might not be working well, or to reinforce a good practice that they should continue doing.”
— Andrew Gobran
People Operations, Doist
360Learning ensure that when giving feedback, it's actionable and fact based, rather than story based.
“ We don't give feedback on the personality or the character of the collaborator. We avoid saying things like "you are not autonomous enough". Instead, we lead with the specific actions ("you ask for my validation several times a day on..."). Then, we say how those actions made us feel: "It makes me feel that I can not trust you to carry a project from A to Z, and it gives me the impression that...”
— Matthieu Leventis
Corporate Culture Director, 360 Learning
This approach starts with fact, rather than opinion, which is hard to disagree with. It shifts things from having an accusatory tone to being more of an open discussions of feelings, allowing both parties how to understand and work through them together.
Based on feedback from the report's self-review, their peers, and the manager's evaluation, a manager should have identified 2-3 areas for development for their report. Don't expect the report to remember and follow up on these on their own.
Create an action plan for your report's monthly check in meeting. Involve the report in what they need from you also in order to be successful. Agree on a progress level and track the recent actions taken.