13 Jan A Simple Process to Give Your Company a Competitive Advantage
Becoming our best requires building a faster feedback system.
The more consistent we are providing our teams with effective feedback, the more opportunities we create for them to improve.
One thing that I didn’t always enjoy, but I see as a crucial part of high school for me was the Saturday morning film session.
After for Friday night football games, I would join Coach Turner and the other quarterbacks at the Field House at 7:00 AM to watch the previous night’s game. I’d usually walk in half-asleep with a bag of donut holes, a Red Bull, and my notebook.
We’d then dissect every offensive snap from the night before. Coach’s whole focus was to determine how we scored on the four key things within our control:
· Did we pick the right play at the line of scrimmage?
· Was our footwork (and ball fake) crisp?
· Did we choose the right receiver to throw to on a passing play?
· How accurate was our pass?
Everything was given a score – and it was only on things we had complete control over.
We weren’t worried about what the opponent did. We weren’t concerned if our receiver dropped the pass or fell down. The goal was to focus on what was within our control and our effectiveness with them.
Some Saturdays were fun. It’s always a great boost to the ego when you can watch yourself on film making great plays. Inevitably there were Saturdays that can only be described as deflating to your ego.
You’d turn the wrong way on a play or perhaps threw an interception trying to force a pass to the wrong place.
As we watched, Coach Turner would point out what we did incorrectly and ask what we think we should have done. It gave us the space to learn from our mistakes and understand why there was a better choice to be made.
It wasn’t always the most fun process but it was crucial to my development as a player during my junior & senior seasons starting on varsity.
I learned more from watching film than I could have in the heat of a game. During the game, we get immediate feedback on plays, but it’s not always accurate.
Sometimes you throw an interception that wasn’t your fault (someone fell down or ran in when they should have run out). It’s easy to let the final score trick us into believing how “great” we played. A win can hide mistakes made, that if left uncorrected, will eventually cost you those wins.
As all coaches know, “The tape don’t lie” and there’s no hiding from what’s on film – which is why it’s always the best place to go for feedback and one reason we did it consistently every Saturday morning, just 12 hours after kickoff.
It gave us time to learn over the weekend and prepare to correct those mistakes before the following week’s practice and upcoming game.
No matter our sport, at some point we all hang up our cleats, get a job, and as we grow up, can easily slip into the habit of avoiding feedback loops like Saturday film sessions.
For many of us, we shift our mindset from receiving coaching feedback to running from it. We avoid it in an effort to protect our ego, and by doing so, shrink our self-awareness.
We stunt our emotional growth and fool ourselves into believing we don’t have room for growth – or at the very least, we don’t want to know about it because that’s a signal we’re not doing great work now.
Our ego takes over instead of our chase for excellence that we once embraced with sports.
One activity I work frequently on with my client is creating feedback loops with their teams. How are we giving our team’s feedback – both positive and negative – in order to help them continue growing?
Because let’s be honest, once a year at an annual review isn’t enough to encourage consistent growth.
There are two types of feedback loops that author James Clear discusses in his book, Atomic Habits.
One (Balancing feedback) is designed to curb negative behavior. Imagine speeding down the highway and seeing a radar sign flash your speed. The majority of us if speeding will then slow down and continue at that slower speed for the next short distance.
The other feedback loop (reinforcing) is helpful for building productive habits. Think of this as creating a culture of “calling out the good.”
Many of us have been conditioned from a young age to recognize when we (or someone else) get in trouble. Bad behavior is called out by our teachers, our parents, and we expect nowadays from our bosses.
But how are we recognizing when someone’s doing something well?
I’ve interviewed a number of sports psychologists on my parenting youth sports podcast about how parents’ communication with their young athletes influences how their athlete matures.
One of the strongest influences is what we praise our youth for and recognize immediately after games. Science shows that it’s better to praise things like effort, being a great teammate, being coachable, and playing hard instead of how many hits you had, points you scored, or if your team won.
The reason being is that whatever an athlete is praised for will become their sole focus, and many times, they’ll equate a parent’s love to that outcome.
The more we praise their effort, coachability, etc.. the more we stress the importance of those choices in life, something research shows help with the long-term development of that athlete.
And the same concept applies to our workforce.
One of the ways I work with my clients on building the habit of “calling out the good” is to publicly praise the skills and choices that we want our culture to be known for and modeled by all team members.
Recognize and publicly praise the employee who steps up and helps without questioning when their coworker calls in sick.
Praise the preparation by someone who put in hours of work to perfect the client pitch, regardless of how successful that pitch was.
Make a point to call out the good behavior and choices we want all of our team members to make. The more often we praise things like:
· Giving 100% effort
· Being a great teammate
· Owning your mistakes
· Seeking opportunities to grow
…the better we can build a culture comprised of people who consistently make those choices.
A 2021 Gallup poll showed that employees who received meaningful, consistent feedback were four times as engaged in their work the following week than employees who didn’t.
FOUR times as engaged!
If we want our employees to be engaged in the work they do to help our company hit the goals we’ve set, we need to be setting up consistent feedback loops for them internally beyond just our annual standard review.
We need to be creating conversations every week to provide them feedback.
One of the things that my wife and I discussed in her new management role is budgeting 10 minutes every day for a different employee.
Over the course of a week, she’ll be able to hit her five team members with brief 10-minute conversations, providing them meaningful feedback on where they can improve and what opportunities they have for growth.
To call out the good, she has the opportunity to publicly praise them in front of their peers at their weekly team meeting for the choices they make that align with her desired culture.
Just 10 minutes a day – which isn’t that big of an ask of even the busiest executive.
In fact, most of us probably waste well more than 10 minutes a day caught in the endless scrolling trap of social media.
What if we spent that time investing that with just one of our team members instead of our social media feed?
If we have a larger team, how can we budget 15-20 minutes each day for multiple employees so we’re having conversations every 1-2 weeks?
The larger your organization is, the more likely you don’t have direct contact with your entire team – but your managers and directors do. How can you provide your leaders with direct meaningful feedback, and then empower them to do the same to those reporting to them?
Winning cultures have engaged employees.
Great teams have engaged teammates that are all working their hardest together toward a common goal.
The way we get everyone on the same page and engaged to collaborate is by providing them consistent feedback on how they can keep growing and then calling out the good choices they make.
If we want our companies to take that next step in 2022, one of the best things we can do is immediately start implementing quicker feedback loops for our team to create more opportunities for them to improve and to feel appreciated.