OVO Tech Blog

Managers need to continuously improve too!

Introduction

Ashley Dunn

Ashley Dunn

Head Of Information Security at OVO Energy


Managers need to continuously improve too!

Posted by Ashley Dunn on .
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Managers need to continuously improve too!

Posted by Ashley Dunn on .

Are you a manager looking for a way to get group, honest, useful feedback from your team? We’ve developed the perfect format!

Often we have a worry that we may not be meeting the needs of those around us, here is a great way of exploring the needs of your team, and having the opportunity to decide if you want to meet that need, have the capacity to meet it, and agreement of how you can meet it moving forward.

Time: up to 90 mins
Outcome: A clear understanding of what you can do to improve.
Prerequisite: A high trust, safe environment for the team to be open and honest. Interested in creating a high trust safe environment? Check out this blog first.

At OVO, it’s easy enough to give feedback to a colleague:

  • Post a thank-you in our ‘Thankyou’ Slack channel
  • Write a card and add it to the ‘Thankyou’ wall
  • Using WorkDay on an ad-hoc basis / as a more formal 6 monthly feedback task.

All of these are great ways, some more than others, but wouldn’t it be better to have a really open and honest feedback session? As a manager of a team, I felt that it would be really awesome to see whether using a retro would be an effective way to get honest feedback.

Introducing ‘Ash’s Retro’, not, to my relief, the character assassination of Ash I was anticipating

I approached Georgie, one of our Agile coaches, a few weeks ago with an idea to see whether it was possible to hold a retro which focused on a manager. In discussing this, Georgie suggested that we should focus on the needs of the team. That’s to say, what are their needs? what needs are being met? and which ones aren’t? It would potentially allow us to work together as a group to understand what I needed to change in order to meet their needs, and what I should keep doing that was meeting their needs already. From the outset, I said that this had to be totally blameless, everyone was free to say what they think and that I wanted them to be as honest as they could be.

The format of the session was:

Without me, the manager (Ash), in the room…

  1. The facilitator (Georgie, Agile Coach) encouraged the team members to list on index cards all of the needs they have from a manager, whomever that manager might be.
  2. The team then put the items into two columns, the needs being met and the needs not being met. Adding context on post-it notes and sticking them on top of the need so that they can make it clear to their manager why items were in that column.
  3. The team needs to then be given 6 stickers to dot vote on the needs they most want to share with Ash, including the needs being met (to ensure the manager continues to meet those needs.)

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With me in the room…

  1. The manager then comes back in the room and the team run through each need (prioritised by the dots).
  2. Time-box the discussion of each need by approx 5-10 mins, giving the team time to share context and the manager time to respond as to whether or not they want to and have the capacity to meet that need. Taking clear actions as to how they will experiment with trying to meet that need.
  3. Make sure you type up all of the needs and the actions taken after the session, check back in 2-4 weeks to see how the experiments went, are the needs agreed to all now being met? Are there new needs of the team?

Idea: you could always try this both ways, where the manager is clear on their needs of the team as well.

What was really impressive was that the feedback was really honest and balanced, as I had hoped it would be. Sure, I am doing some things really well, and yep there’s areas for me to improve.

Examples of some of the feedback I received, both good and bad include;

  • Recognises that everyone has a life, and adopts a family first attitude
  • Promotes flexible working within the team
  • Provides good feedback but could provide more critical feedback
  • Defends the team, providing ‘protection’ and portrays accurate representation upwards
  • Encourage more representation of the team, promotion/opportunities to represent services at a higher level
  • Delegate more and hand over of high level tasks, set tasks, give requirements/timescales and the priority

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So what did I learn from this experience?

  • Yes, it’s totally possible to apply the concept of a retro to a human to obtain feedback
  • Our team has total trust in one another, we aren’t afraid to say what we think or feel
  • Yes, there are things I can do better.
  • Everyone is guilty of being distracted by tech, we all need to leave tech alone when having meetings and face to face conversations!

I’m not aware that anyone else has done this before at our company, or maybe ever. So, if you fancy trying something different to get some great actionable feedback, why not try this?

Don’t forget, everything is an experiment!

Ashley Dunn

Ashley Dunn

Head Of Information Security at OVO Energy

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