Today’s post is by guest Aristocrat contributor Lola Dart. Lola Dart is the creator of The MINTOA™ Mentality and owner of Live and Learn with Lola. She works together with clients to make their lives better by teaching them how to transform their motivations into accomplishments. Connect with Lola on Facebook and Twitter: @TheLolaDart.
My team and I had just finished revising a textbook and adding a new online video series to accompany it. The revisions and additions caused the book sales to more than triple over the previous year. As the project was coming to a close, I realized the success we were about to experience, but in turn – I was more concerned about our success as a team.
I knew that the project finished earlier than planned and used fewer resources than allotted. I also knew that the team seemed happy and satisfied with their work- but as an Industrial Engineer, I wanted to make things better and document our successful project process for the future.
My idea was to gather feedback on what I had done well as a Project Manager and what I could improve upon. I wanted to do this by having individual meetings with every team member who had worked on the project. Before I started these meetings, I reached out to a couple of team members to ask their opinion on the idea of the feedback meeting itself. Our team hadn’t conducted anything like this before – but the company had tried various ways to get input from employees in the past.
Honesty is the best policy
My team was very open and honest from the start. By telling me stories of their past feedback experiences, we were able to craft a situation that was geared towards success.
One team member shared the numerous times that feedback had been given and was not implemented. She said that: “it felt like a waste of time if the feedback wasn’t going to be used”. So, I let them know exactly how their ideas were going to be accounted for. I created a document and incorporated their feedback into it. This way, not only would our team be better served in the future – but the reach would extend to any team performing these tasks in the future.
Another team member shared the experiences he had with managers who asked for feedback and said they would be open to it; but then spent the whole meeting justifying their actions or explaining away situations. He said it can turn out to feel more like a criticism or even a battle. So, we came up with an idea. Instead of having a meeting about how well I managed, we set the scope of the meeting to be the project itself.
The feedback meetings became targeted. The scope of the meeting explored the aspects of the project that ran smoothly. Additionally, it was a chance for us to examine aspects that needed to be ironed out. The focus was on the solutions. For every issue identified by a team member, their solution was requested. The outcome of the meeting was a document shared with other teams.
While in the feedback meetings, I listened. That is the most important part. In a meeting like this, it can be so easy to turn things into a debate or argument that leaves all parties on the defense. Instead, I limited my responses to follow-up questions. When I didn’t understand something, I asked for clarification. I consistently expressed gratitude and appreciation that they took time to seriously consider how we can make our team projects better in the future. I also took a ton of notes. I let them know that their feedback was important and I was documenting it.
The simplest approach is usually the best…
As a manager, it was really helpful to learn what was working. It’s reassuring to know that some things aren’t broken and don’t need to be fixed. For example, my team liked to have check-in meetings twice a week. It made them feel connected to the project and the team. It also held them accountable to finishing their assigned tasks. They also liked the assignment spreadsheet I had created to keep track of where each piece of the puzzle was at all times. I thought that a spreadsheet might have been a little overwhelming. However, numerous team members said that they enjoyed being able to see the entire trajectory of each piece and that it held them accountable to finish their tasks – when they could see the later steps at a glance. My team also provided helpful solutions to the overall run of the meetings. For example, now we end meetings on time – even if we are in the middle of a discussion. We either hold the discussion until the next meeting or schedule a follow-up call.
After implementing these feedback meetings, I realized that I not only created a document that could be used each time I start a new project with my team, but a valuable practice to be used organization-wide. Throughout the company, projects and products are benefiting from the results of the feedback meetings I implemented.