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Three ways to break things (mindfully)

Broken plate

We use Slack at Clear Review. And yes, I’m aware that for some, Slack is a bit of a tar­get. It’s an always-on tool. Peo­ple ping out thoughts, sug­ges­tions and com­ments at all hours. Crit­ics say, among oth­er things, that it keeps you plugged into the world of work long after you’ve gone home and should be lev­el­ling your work-life balance. 

So I rather enjoyed a piece recent­ly which focussed on how Slack uses Slack. Appar­ent­ly employ­ees are dis­cour­aged from log­ging in after hours, and that the Do Not Dis­turb set­ting is the default out­side the nor­mal work­ing day. 

More than that, though, I was impressed with the way the busi­ness uses chan­nels to share griev­ances, ask ques­tions of the exec lay­er and open up ideas for things they could do bet­ter. It’s an ethos we fol­low at Clear Review: what are we doing that isn’t work­ing as well as it could be? What can we do to make things work better? 

Bro­ken sys­tems are every­where. In fact, a bro­ken sys­tem is our rea­son for being. Our founder and CEO, Stu­art Hearn, watched man­agers and employ­ees expend hours and hours of effort to com­ply with the annu­al appraisal process. In return, they got a sys­tem that failed to help them grow and devel­op. Frankly, when you spot some­thing like this, it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty as much as it is a challenge.

Open up to the critics 

Employ­ees will dis­cuss things that don’t work. If something’s bro­ken and every­one hates it, it’ll be a reg­u­lar top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion in the pub or at the cof­fee machine. So don’t be the last to know: get a chan­nel open and ask peo­ple to share. Make it anony­mous if you real­ly want to (although you might have to go old-school and set up a sug­ges­tions box). But you may well find that if you’re open about your desire to fix things, peo­ple will respond to your good intentions. 

Slack do this with com­pa­ny feed­back chan­nels. There’s one for the CEO, #exec-ama (if you’ve nev­er fre­quent­ed Red­dit, it’s worth know­ing that AMA stands for Ask Me Any­thing”). There’s even one ded­i­cat­ed to seri­ous gripes — #beef-tweets — which sounds like it does flirt with neg­a­tive vibes. The argu­ment is that it’s bet­ter to know the bad stuff so the busi­ness can try to fix it. 

Sched­ule a session 

Once a month, at Clear Review, we do Break or Remake”. It’s an in-per­son all hands where every­one is encour­aged to share some­thing they think we could do bet­ter, or with, or with­out, in order to make our work­ing lives easier. 

If your organ­i­sa­tion isn’t quite com­fort­able with look­ing each oth­er in the eye and shar­ing that can­dour, you could ask employ­ees to share their con­cerns anony­mous­ly before­hand and nom­i­nate some­one to read them out at the meet­ing. The impor­tant point is that every­one hears and every­one is wel­come to share their solutions. 

Make sure peo­ple have a stake in the game

We believe that great man­ag­er-employ­ee con­ver­sa­tions are the best way to devel­op peo­ple, espe­cial­ly if they’re per­fect­ly sea­soned with reg­u­lar feed­back. And peo­ple who feel that their employ­er is invest­ed in them are — guess what? — far more like­ly to return the compliment. 

If peo­ple are engaged with their career, they’ll want to help fix things (along with all the oth­er amaz­ing things engaged employ­ees do, nat­u­ral­ly). Engaged employ­ees are far less like­ly to churn — if you’re with your employ­er for the long term, you have a vest­ed inter­est in mak­ing it a great place to work. Cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple feel con­nect­ed, involved and invest­ed and your peo­ple will reward you with their best selves.