June 25, 2013

Seeing the Truth: Why Feedback Matters In Your Company

Written by Claire Lew

Your company wants to solve a problem.

But it’s a winding path. There are road blocks and variables, from external competition and a changing market, to internal company flare-ups and political dynamics.

How do you navigate it all so you can actually deliver on what you're meant to do as a company in the first place? How do you cut through the noise so you can simply solve the problem itself?

The key is to see the truth. To have an effective, internal feedback loop so you know the truth of how things are going at your company. It's how you can make the best decisions to move your company forward.

When someone does not vocalize something, you don’t see the truth. Instead, you act on your own assumptions and mental models. You address the symptoms of a problem, rather than the root cause. You become reactionary, only tackling an issue once it's grown and festered.

These unspoken assumptions are the greatest obstacle for a company. It’s what ends up hurting a company the most.

So how do we unroot the truth? How do we enable open, honest feedback within a company?

In a word, it's trust.

Employees must trust that they won't suffer from personal repercussion in offering their viewpoint, and they must trust that the company has the ability to change. On the side of leadership, business owners must trust their employees' intentions, and be willing to be a bit vulnerable in wanting to hear the truth.

This trusted environment is the only way people can give and receive honest feedback with one another - and there's no silver bullet.

However, I believe you can create the foundation for effective feedback to occur. Here are a few small steps you can take:

1. Ask easy questions.

People don't feel comfortable giving their opinion, unless they're asked for it first. So if you want feedback, ask questions. Furthermore, frame your initial questions in a way that’s not overwhelming. It’s hard enough for someone to voice a viewpoint that might be unpopular or dissenting. For example, instead of asking, "What are our top three weaknesses as a company?" try "What's something in the past week that we could have done a better job on?"

2. Be clear.

Most frustrations in a company simply occur because something is unclear. Why a certain decision was made, what the overall direction of the company is, who in the company is working on what projects - people don't necessarily care what these things are, they just want to know what they are. This clarity gives people the confidence and meaning behind the work that they do.

3. Do something.

Trust is fundamentally founded upon action. So people can't trust that things will be different in a company if nothing has changed. Commit to one low-hanging fruit, and take care of it immediately. Even if it's something minutely small, the fact that it was acted upon speaks volumes, and over time, is the surest way to build trust.

With this trust, you create the baseline for open and honest feedback to occur within a company. You’ll be able to see your company clearly, so you can make the best decisions to improve. You'll maximize your company's ability to solve a problem in the most efficient way.

As Einstein once said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

If you want to solve a problem, you must want to see the truth.

It starts with feedback.

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