Moving from office-first to remote-first requires more than an investment in your people’s home office set-up. It requires a redesign of how you work - including your tools, workflows, policies and values. As a manager, your primary focus is to enable your people to execute their work, improve over time and perform their best. A huge factor influencing this is the feedback loop.
Feedback is rarely something that comes easy. Unfortunately, whether you are in the office or not, giving constructive feedback is challenging and often avoided, and positive feedback is infrequent or ineffective.
On top of this, observing your team’s performance - how they managed that tough conversation with a client, how they landed on the best strategy for a project, how they solved that tricky problem - and having this prompt you to share praise or constructive feedback is far more challenging in a remote business.
Three tips to help you build a culture of feedback in your remote business
1. Make it intentional
Everyday we execute hundreds of habits unconsciously. By 10am, we’ve already managed to get out of bed, (potentially) exercise, shower, eat and begin work - often without much conscious thought. One of the best ways to change a habit is to bring your behaviour into consciousness by setting a trigger that will remind you to act.
The same is true for building feedback into your remote business - you need to agree upon clear mechanisms for feedback. These mechanisms serve as a trigger for feedback to happen.
For example, when do we give planned feedback versus in-the-moment feedback? When should we expect client or project feedback? These mechanisms of feedback will vary across teams and individual team members will have different needs regarding the amount of feedback they want. This exercise aims to create a ‘middle ground’ where those who need more can access it, and those who don’t ask for feedback enough don’t miss out.
2. Make it asynchronous
Remote-first organisations are not bound by time or place. Work happens on a schedule that suits individual team members. And your feedback loops should reflect this as well. Exploring asynchronous avenues of feedback enables more opportunities for feedback, in addition to synchronous feedback.
One way to do this is to set up a shared spreadsheet that enables people to log their feedback focus areas and invite team members to asynchronously share their feedback. Given transparency is critical in a remote organisation, employee goals are often shared. Employees can add their feedback focus areas to their goals, with the invitation for team members to share what they can 'Stop, Start or Continue'.
Invite everyone to check out their team members’ goals and feedback focus areas at the start of a goal cycle and at regular intervals so that people know what type of feedback to be looking out for when working together.
3. Make it easy
Giving feedback isn’t easy. Often we underestimate the positive impact of praise or compliments, and sharing feedback when a team member has missed the mark can feel awkward and a little bit condescending. In many of these cases, it’s often easiest to default to saying nothing at all.
To create a culture of feedback, we need to make it easy. Firstly, invite your people to start asking for advice, rather than feedback. Advice is future-oriented and tends to elicit a greater quantity and quality of feedback. For example, ask “Can I get your advice on how I presented that report yesterday?”
When giving feedback, it can be hard to broach the subject with a team member. So, ask their permission by getting a 'micro-yes' before giving feedback. Encourage your team to come up with their 'go-to' micro-yes question, to make it easier for them to start their feedback conversations. Some examples include: “Can we chat about how our meeting with the team went yesterday?” or “Can we have a chat about how we are working together?”.
Making feedback intentional, asynchronous and easy are just three strategies to help you build a feedback culture in your remote business. You can read more about how to put these strategies into action here.