Blog: Three ways how to foster a feedback culture in an IT company
People hate getting feedback.
Unless you are totally trained in erasing your ego, it is terrible to hear criticism on your work. Software engineers are no exception. On the contrary, they are often even more sensitive to feedback than their non-tech colleagues. That sensitivity comes from the great urge for appreciation. As a creator you seek confirmation for the genius of what you have created.
Just think back to your youth. If you had made a drawing or other artwork, you were very proud of that product. You were there with your imagination, concentration and you were able to make something. Imagine that your teacher would not say anything positive about it, but only criticized. It would definitely hurt, and that opportunity to learn is lost.
This also happens with software engineers. They see their work as their baby. They have worked days full of concentration and they want appreciation for that. Even more frustrating is that the manager doesn’t see how much effort and creativity the engineer has put in his or her work. Code is poetry, and to be able to appreciate poetry, you need skills.
Yet receiving feedback is essential for learning, and tech’s are extremely eager to learn.
What are the ways to give feedback to engineers without being offended and not hearing their manager or lead?
1. Give sincere appreciation
Dale Carnegie, the founder of self-help books, explained it very clearly in 1936: “Beginning with praise and honest appreciation.” This is a big indulgent that in the year 2018 is still not or hardly ever applied. Managers, leads, product owners and colleagues do not or hardly compliments each other. Sad, because it has been proven that we work much harder by getting positive feedback than negative feedback.
Keep in mind that you have to give ten compliments for each criticism you give to someone. And preferably give those ten compliments at random, during all the interactions you have with someone. Not just during that two-yearly evaluation meeting. Also make sure that they are sincere. So no superfluous remarks, but sincere appreciation, which you can substantiate well. Especially tech’s are sensitive to fake comments.
Action: Think and write down for each colleague what you appreciate about them. Share this the next week during the normal weekly routine. Do not make a big deal of it and be sincere in your compliments. Do this every week for the next 4 weeks. Put in your phone a 6-weeks reminder to check with yourself if you are still rocking it.
2. Receive your own feedback as a leader
For managers of smart people like techs, it is essential to be respected. And that respect is absolutely not free to get. The biggest danger in this situation is that as a manager you have much less tech-knowledge than your team full of technical smart people.
The worst thing you can do is pretend you know. Just admitting that you do not know, increases your credibility. Often managers do not even know that they do not know. That is why we also recommend asking for feedback as a leader. You use both the potential of your team and you stimulate a feedback culture.
Action: Organize a tip top session on your leadership every three months. Invite your team members to prepare this session well. They have to give you a top, a compliment about something you do very well. And a tip, a way in which you can improve your working method.
3. Make the retrospective meetings personal
Most tech teams now work with the agile working method. For a fair reason, because the rapidly changing market demands this form of fast iterations in short sprints. A successful feedback part of this method is the retrospective, also called retro. During this meeting you look back at the last sprint and identify what you can do better next time.
Retrospectives are a important development for improving the organization. But there is a big point of improvement. Most teams focus purely on what can be improved in terms of process and not the improvement points per person. Nice, safe and not painful, but a lot less constructive. Because if you never get to hear that you listen badly or that you are poorly documenting, you will never learn from it.
Action: Introduce a moment in the retrospective where everyone writes down a tip and top for each team member. Let everyone exchange the tip’s and top’s and let them tell which tip they want to take with them for the next time and which top has surprised them the most. This is not a Roast, but people learn well from their personal successes and mistakes.
Do you feel that your organization needs help with introducing these tips, or do you want to know more about what Professional Rebel can do for your organization? Please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.