Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Accepting Feedback Part 2… How To Develop Trust With Your Team Members

We were talking about how to create an atmosphere where our team members feel free to give each other, and the Leader, constructive feedback; and where everyone, including the Leader, is able to hear that feedback (at least most of the time) as constructive and helpful.  So… yeah…  How do we get that going?

If we are not making mistakes, we are not trying enough new things, we are not experimenting enough, we are not stretching our skills, and we will never be able to stay ahead of the competition.  Mistakes are not just inevitable.  Mistakes are mandatory!

In too many workplaces team members are made to feel that they cannot admit any mistakes or failings, or that they need help with something.  I have managed several restaurants, retail stores, and a high-end organic grocery store.  In all of my roles I met or exceeded all KPI targets, although I was learning much of it as I went along.

In a couple of those jobs, if I talked to my district manager or team Leader and shared my difficulties, or told him that I wasn’t sure how to handle a situation, I was told perhaps I wasn’t ready for this job… maybe he made a mistake in hiring me.  How do you imagine that made me feel?  Do you imagine I asked that district manager any more questions?  Do you think I asked for his advice on anything?  Did I feel safe admitting when I made a mistake, or would I be better off trying to keep it quiet and fix it myself?  Is that a workplace where my opinion was welcome?  Did I feel valued there?

Managing one restaurant, and with one or two team leaders in the grocery chain, I was able to sit down with my team Leader or district manager, and tell them I wasn’t sure how to handle a situation, or that I had messed up my holiday order and what I had done to fix it.  They would welcome my questions, and help me figure out what to do, leaving me confident about my job and our relationship.  I felt good about asking for my team Leader’s opinion.  I felt safe admitting when I messed up as soon as it happened.  My opinion counted, and I felt like a valued part of the team.

Which of these workplaces was I happy to leave?  In which did I put more energy, and more of my own time?  In which did I form better relationships?  Do you think others shared my experiences at these workplaces?  Which companies do you think ran more efficiently, and experienced lower turnover?

OK fine… and how do we change the culture on our team to be more open to feedback smart guy?

Well, since we are the Leader, it starts, like everything else, with us of course.  We set the tone.  Our actions become the acceptable standard.  What we do becomes what the team does.  Have I stated that enough ways yet?

So… I addressed this issue a bit in an old post about Being Human.  Read that too.

There is a key here… when we share our failings with our team members we become both the team Leader and a human just like them.  We talk with our team members about how many times we did the schedule and failed to have enough coverage on a shift.  We tell them about the first few (perhaps more?) times we placed that order and either ran out of products, or had so many we didn’t know what to do with them.  We can tell our apprentices about our worst hire, and the terrible impact it had on the team.  Sharing our mistakes with our apprentices and our team members makes us one team, rather than separating you from the team.  If you don’t feel it’s right to share your mistakes, or you just can’t go through with it, please take this up with your therapist/coach/mentor.  This quality is indispensable.  Your team will never achieve greatness if you are not humble enough to be human amongst them.

Share your struggles and learning opportunities with your team members when it is appropriate.  When you are teaching someone how to schedule, share how you only scheduled one opener and had to cover the missing shifts yourself, and how many times you did that before finding a fix.  When you are teaching someone how and why to use pars when ordering you can share the mistakes that led you to decide that using pars was the only way to go.  When teaching your apprentices how to find the best new hires tell them about the times you hired your friends, and why you will never do that again.  Share your failings and mistakes when it’s relevant to what you are teaching.  In this way you reassure your team that you are aware of your mistakes, that you don’t think you know it all, and you realize that making mistakes is part of learning.  You also reassure them that you have spent time in their shoes, and have paid some dues.

You can use meetings as opportunities to tell your team how badly you messed up your first role as team Leader.  When talking about the changes you are making and assigning projects, be sure to state clearly that you expect mistakes, share an example of a mistake or two you made, and set the expectation that your team members will come to you with any problems they encounter.

Mistakes are going to happen.  If you want to be the first one to hear about a mistake, and you want to hear about it directly from the team member who made the mistake, you MUST do whatever it takes to get them to trust you.  You can never punish anyone for coming to you with news of a mistake.  You can expect that team members will not continue to repeat mistakes, and you cannot in any way punish them for making or reporting mistakes!  If you do, even once, you will be working for a very long time to regain their trust.  This is something that you should take seriously… if you blow this it will take an unbelievably long time to fix.

One thing you can do, in this beginning stage of building your team, is set some standards and expectations around where your team members should be trying new things.  Since this is probably new for all of you, you should talk about the need to stay on track with your KPI’s, and agree on the ways people can take chances and try new systems, methods, or whatever else you agree on.  In this way you can meet your budgets and standards while still allowing your team some freedom in how things are done.

When your team members do come to you with questions, mistakes, and requests to be shown something for a second or third time, take a solution-oriented approach.  For a mistake, “don’t worry… we can fix that”, and then later you can talk about a plan to keep that mistake from repeating itself.  For a request for retraining “you know, I can’t tell you how many times I had to be shown to do that… it’s been a while, let’s figure it out together”, and then later talk about how they might set up a filing system for themselves, or a notepad, or send themselves emails and file them…  For all questions you need to make sure the team members believe that you are happy to answer their questions.  It’s OK to be in the middle of something right this minute, and be sure to get back to them as quickly as you can.  They need to know that you love to empower them and pass on your knowledge.  And… the only way they’ll believe it is if you do in fact love empowering them.  It all comes back to you doesn’t it?

Next time maybe we’ll talk about ideas to get the whole team feeling free to speak up to each other, offering ideas and solutions, rather than harsh criticism and condemnation.  Just you wait… you’re going to have the best team EVER!

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