Great Job! For Real?

While every single day, I live the fact that nothing works without TRUST, here is my last experience on “feedback” sessions when true trust is missing…

How many times in a corporate world while driving a project, you just felt like stopping it because of internal hurdles. How many times the project was so painful that teams even lost the essence of why it started and were just happy it ended… Moreover, the aftermath usually looks like a simple mail with “great fantastic job all”! Along this, as leaders we usually feel this urgent need “to recognize the group and celebrate” rather than dig into what happened to make it better.

How many times then have we tried, as good leaders, to do a “post-action feedback review”? Usual result: instead of a string of congrats emails, a beautiful meeting room filled with individuals and leaders congratulating each other. Those untrue feedbacks and enrobed thoughts kill teams, make things so slow in organizations and never put people into a trustworthy relationship to improve continuously.

Thinking through this corporate “politeness”, I remembered my lifetime experience in the Lebanese Red Cross. Basis is trust for sure. True trust between people and the leaders who show daily their trust for their teams and their radical empathy. In this safe environment, everything is possible. A simple exercise we used to do back then was an “evaluation”. Every single mission we did would end – whatever time it was – by an evaluation. Always. No one would go out of the ambulance without this true, sometimes tough, evaluation. Let me detail what this was: During an emergency, you just do not have time to say “sorry” or leave someone do a mistake or risk patient’s life; you just do. Therefore, what was key for teams to learn and grow their capabilities was to discuss after each action how things went, where someone went wrong, when someone did great, if someone put others at risk or patient at risk etc… With emotions and adrenaline, some of those evaluations would go into tough discussions, true talks, real words but they would always end in the ambulance with the mission done. When out of the car, we would go back to normal, back to a real team whatever happened and said there; nevertheless individually and as a team grown.

Three learnings from this experience:

– If trust is there, you can talk true because people really believe that the feedbacks given are not personal. The feedback is given on the work performed, how to improve it and make the individuals and team learn continuously.

– Do an after-action review on every single important project because you can always learn from great things and the day it goes bad you can talk true. If you only do an after-action review when things go wrong, people will always try to find out ways to say that in fact it went great…

– The ambulance… Do the review directly within the action and not in a meeting room after a while… Have a “safe place” environment where people can express everything they want, and when out of the session, things stayed in and only learnings went out with them.

Finally, real trust here is important for a simple aspect: people should know that this is not a performance management process and that as a leader you deeply believe they are doing a good job – otherwise you would have treated this separately. The only reason of the “evaluation” is to grow as individuals by learning and as teams by co-working honestly. Only then, you will start to move fast as an organization and make things better for the people and customers you serve.

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