“How am I doing?” He was with the company for 2 months by then, with his team leader located abroad. For some reason, unrelated to his work, we sat down to talk – he and two of us team leaders. We finished a topic and then he started: since he was already there with us, maybe we could help. Nobody gave him any feedback regarding his performance.
Moments like these make my brain form a couple of new neural connections. There he was, a young software engineer, with decent experience, not merely interested but desperate to get some evaluation of his work. Many like him never speak out. Whom else have we been neglecting?
And so I set out to meet every one of my team members in private once a month, just to talk out how we feel about each other’s work and performance. Not formally, not in a framework, but openly and candidly. Beginnings are awkward, because people aren’t used to being able to speak freely. You see them sweating and avoiding eye contact. So you, the superior, start talking about yourself and your own mistakes. Then you make space. They will follow. And they will tell you what’s been wrong, often things you haven’t noticed at all.
Once you show yourself open to their criticism, they will open to yours. Turns out, they really do want to be better, and do want to stay on course of your expectations. While it’s inevitable that they’ll be drifting apart once in awhile, when you explain yourself and your motivations properly, they’ll quickly change and you can continue sailing at full speed.