On Professionalism in 2020

First, I’d like to note the state of some things:

  • I’m starting to write this in mid-June 2020.
  • Spikes in COVID-19 cases are happening as expected as the country reopens more. People are not social distancing, not using masks, and still actively protesting both of those as fake news.
  • The amount of societal unease feels like it is at an all-time high with the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-racism, and anti-police brutality. Protests are still going on.
  • Unemployment rates are high while layoffs and furloughs continue.
  • News cycles transition and overshadow each other between crisis to tragedy and back.

Among many others, and also including events and webinars, I’ve been reading articles and watching things things like:

That being said, there are a few things that I have not stopped repeating to myself and my team:

  • Empathy and emotional intelligence are more important than ever.
  • Never stop learning about how to handle these situations. Read, listen, and observe.
  • This is not “remote working” or “working from home.” This is forced isolation during a global pandemic.
  • Many people’s home situations may not be conducive to working from home, and that’s 100% ok. A few examples, but not limited to are:
    • Having to work while taking care of dependents: children, elderly, people with disabilities or illness, etc.
    • Homeschooling children.
    • Disruptive roommates, pets, or family.
    • Messy backgrounds or poor lighting.
    • Lack of safe-to-use laundry facilities.
    • Lack of private, quiet space to work.
    • Lack of proper ergonomic workspace.
    • Lack of air conditioning, heat, or a fast/reliable internet connection.
    • Loneliness.
  • Everyone handles stress differently.
    • Extroverts may turn into introverts, and vise-versa.
    • You don’t know who is more at risk or more prone to stress for anything, including health risk-wise or living situation-wise.
    • Laws are getting passed that revoke rights, while laws that protect rights are repealed.
    • Some people’s access to their affordable healthcare is at risk.
    • You don’t know who hasn’t seen their family members in months, who might not have been able to attend a funeral for loved one, who hasn’t been able to see their new niece or grandchild, etc.
    • People’s existing physical or mental health issues might be getting amplified.
  • Meetings that are given labels like “Company Update” or “All Staff Checkin” should have agendas. This increases in importance as the meeting is more short-notice. The fear of companies going out of business, furloughs, and layoffs is incredible. Do your staff a favor and save them the stress and anxiety by outlining what the meeting is about in an agenda.
  • Formal workplace attire, hairstyles, or anything else focused on appearance. If you’re doing your job, I don’t care if you’re still in yesterday’s pajamas!
  • The need for process and consistency is at an all-time high as well.
  • Culture, transparency, and preventing burnout & ensuring a healthy work-life ratio should be prioritized.

While I stress positivity, patience, and kindness for my team, I also expect everyone else to do the same, especially managers and leadership. You don’t know what’s going on in anyone else’s life, and you shouldn’t have to in order to treat them with positivity, patience, and kindness. On the flip side of that, you may not notice in yourself that you may be stressed and possibly more sensitive than “usual.” So– and I stress this stronglywithin reason:

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t get offended if someone snaps at you.
  • Don’t take it personally if someone “disrespects” you.
  • Offer an empathetic ear. Offer resources.
  • Suggest the use of personal days / vacation time.
  • Reiterate that “mental health days” are just as important as “physically sick days.”
  • People will have to turn their cameras off, mute their microphones, or step away from video calls unexpectedly.
  • If you feel comfortable, talk to them on the side, or ask their manager/HR to check in on them. Make sure to approach it with empathy, not retribution, or expectations of apology.

My Site

The back story:

Between May 2016 – May 2018, I transitioned from an individual contributor to a leader and manager of a team of four developers. Instead of being the primary developer from start to finish on large projects– I was doing more oversight and contributing smaller tactical components of many projects.

My website got to a point where I hadn’t updated it in years. I left it “under construction” for over a year while I tried to figure out which direction to go with it.

I’ve maintained my website as a portfolio and blog since college: from Flash & ActionScript, to Joomla, and finally on WordPress, where it’s seen several iterations. I kept all of my old work throughout the years either as a detailed portfolio item or blog post. Once a portfolio item would no longer represent my current sills, I’d convert it into a blog post. I loved seeing my growth: it was a great way to combat my own imposter syndrome. The downside is that maintaining all of those screenshots, screen capture videos, descriptions, and code bases became a large burden.

I got back in the swing of finishing my WordPress theme and site content right around when Gutenberg was becoming a reality. I decided to go that direction, and took a Javascript for WordPress bootcamp, which included Gutenberg. The hardest step in all of this was how to develop my content to describe what I had been up to for the past ~9 years.

Well, you’re looking at the final result. I decided to focus on the balance of being a player-coach by separating my homepage and my sections of content into two: me as a developer and me as a manager/leader/director— and then, of course, the supporting pages and posts.

The tech:

The features:

  • Shortcode: time since, for calculating days since an inputted date, as seen on my homepage.
  • Interactive Timeline, as seen on My Time at BU
  • Custom Post type: Quotes Repository, with 2 different views: listing and slideshow
  • Workflow status taxonomy & visual icons (needs copy, needs link check, needs images, ready, etc.)
  • Responsive Tables, as seen on:
  • Fancybox upgrade to Gallery Block, as seen in the Screenshots section below
  • Custom Dashboard widgets for things like listing all my pages, listing the most recently edited pages/posts, and listing any unfinished posts.
  • A metabox to add additional classes to the <body> tag, for use much like a feature flag or utilities/helper class.
  • Some personal features:
    • Maps of places I’ve been and places I’d like to go — via WP Google Maps, with some customizations.
    • Responsive table of books I’ve read

Screenshots:

Future updates:

  • Comply with WordPress best practices by moving most of this functionality into a plugin(s), leaving the theme to just be a theme
  • Retrieve some of my historical portfolio items and blog posts, as mentioned above
  • A Gutenberg Block I’m almost done refining: Professional Development Table
  • Full-site Gutenberg editing

Landing Pages Plugin

I conceived & built the BU Landing Pages Plugin around November 2019. For several years prior, we had been using CMB2 and page templates for homepages/landing pages– in order to achieve non-standard layouts including promo boxes, featured news, events, or profiles, and other custom functionality.

Along with the department’s creative director, we identified the most common layouts/components and compiled them into a plugin (still based on CMB2) so that we could stop rebuilding them on a per-project basis. The idea was to keep it as simple as possible with very little configuration needed.

Statistics

(as of Feb 2020)

36

Sites using the plugin

8

Contributors to the repo

281

Commits on the repo

Features & Goals

  • Stop-gap between the timing of non-Gutenberg at BU and eventually integrating Gutenberg
  • It could be activated on our Responsive Framework with no extra coding, styling, or considerations
  • Built for two sites, so original scope was to accomplish those + a few other components we knew would be common
    • There was to be no configuration, no hooks, and no reordering or repeating of components
  • If you fill out a row/component, it shows up
  • Fallbacks for “none found” for the automatic selections, along with notices only viewable to site admins letting them know that
  • Built with our university-standard metabox plugin: CMB2

Default BU Landing Page components

  • Promo set 1
  • Full-width promo
  • Promo set 2
  • News
  • Events
  • “Also in this section” (child page listing)

Future Features

  • Reorderability (sitewide default set via settings page and per-page reordering)
    • Theme constants to lock/restrict the reordering
  • WP Action Hooks to inject additional content

Screenshots

Side-by-side screenshots of the frontend and the editor for a page using the BU Landing Pages template:

Responsive Framework

We started developing BU’s Responsive Framework in October of 2013.

I was the original developer to contribute to the Responsive Framework, and while my individual contributions have wound down, I remain in charge of overseeing the development.

It was a very slow, deliberate build based off of a lot of institutional knowledge and working knowledge based on the previous framework, called Flexi. We chose to start building the first child theme while the framework was still in development so different team members could provide real-time and “real-world” feedback.

Three Avenues

The Responsive Framework, or Responsi as we lovingly call it, has three main avenues of usage:

Out-of-the-box Theme

  • Enable-and-go for clients.
  • Options available via the customizer and settings pages.
  • Menu/layout options, color palettes, content/sidebar settings.

Out-of-the-box Theme
+ Custom Design & Config

  • Via custom CSS/Sass
  • This usually involves a designer/frontend dev also setting up the site and configuring options and content deeply.

A Parent Theme Framework

  • We build full-scale child theme with custom design and functionality
  • Customizer options & settings can be set via theme constants so they can’t be changed if the design doesn’t allow for it.

Statistics

(as of Feb 2020)

1936

Sites using the framework directly

75

Custom child themes

22

Contributors to the framework repo

3126

Commits on the framework repo

Built With

  • NPM & Grunt
  • GitHub pull requests require passing Travis CI & Code Climate tests.
  • Visual Regression Testing via BackstopJS.
  • We also have a repo called Responsive Child Starter, which is a starting place for our theme developers.
  • Vanilla JS and jQuery, where appropriate.

Integrations & Customizations

  • Includes many hooks and filters for overrides and customization.
  • Granular, standardized naming conventions, especially around page templates, template parts, and helper functions.
  • Integrates with other BU services and plugins:
    • Goes hand-in-hand with the BU Landing Pages Plugin & BU Banners.
    • BU Branding Plugin, BU Profiles Plugin, BU Slideshow Plugin, Course Feeds Service & Plugin, Calendar Service & Plugin.
    • Gravity Forms, Yoast SEO, YARPP.

More Detail on Features

  • 5 built-in Menu/Branding layouts.
  • 5 built-in font pairings.
  • 5 built-in color palettes.
  • Branding configuration.
  • GitHub Wiki for internal documentation.
  • Separate website for client-facing documentation.

On the Horizon

  • Working on Release 2.0, and open sourcing it.
  • Gutenberg compatibility

Screenshots: Configuration / Backend

Screenshots: Various Homepages of Child Themes

as a…

Developer

These are a collection of developer-focused ideas of mine that describe my methodologies and values as a developer. I also keep a repository of development and leadership/management-centric quotes. I use that in slideshow mode as my work computer’s screensaver.

I do as much professional development as possible, as well as speak, guest lecture, and teach whenever the opportunity arises.

Developer specialties:

  • PHP
  • WordPress
  • HTML & CSS (and SASS)
  • JavaScript (jQuery & React)
  • Python

Skills

  • Process-oriented
  • Coordinating project teams
    (BE developers, FE devs, project managers, etc)
  • Scoping & Estimation

Experience with:

  • WordPress theme frameworks, parent/child themes
  • WordPress multisite
  • WP-CLI
  • Data storage, metadata, and relationships/taxonomies
  • Version Control: Git, Pull Requests, Git-flow
  • Continuous integration: Travis, Code Climate

Some of my recent projects include:

3,850+

Github commits since 2011
(as of Apr ’20)

120+

Repos committed to since 2011
(as of Apr ’20)

55+ Projects Lead
65+ Projects Contributed to

The Power of Keeping Lists

Muscle by Dávid Gladiš from the Noun Project
lists by allex from the Noun Project

Hindsight is 20/20 right? I’m coming up on my 10 year anniversary of being a post-college, professional adult, and what a ride it’s been. I’ve had some downtime lately that has given me a chance to do some healthy retrospecting. The single major tangible thing that I wish I had thought to start years and years ago is keeping lists.

I usually like to use a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets help keep my brain organized and also come with great features like sorting and filtering. It doesn’t have to be spreadsheets. Use whatever works for your brain: text files, kanban boards, your to-do app, etc. I definitely would suggest at least something that has filtering / sorting. Side note: if you don’t use cloud software, at least make sure you back it up in some form at least daily.

What type of information should go into these? Similar to the way I process feedback, some of the different sheets I would recommend you keep include:

1. Personal Accomplishments

These are good to keep for things like performance evaluations or general 1:1’s with your boss. Need to discuss a raise or promotion? How about an occasional confidence boost? Open up your Personal Accomplishments spreadsheet and have a read-through. Use some sorting / filtering based on your tags so you can get a list of just the type you’re looking for.

Additionally, this can function as a sort of “brag book.” Keep screenshots of conversations, of emails that give you praise, thank-you cards, etc. In times of increased feelings of imposter syndrome orfeeling generally low/unsure, you can use this as a reference to assure yourself that you indeed are doing it right.

DateDescriptionOther DisciplineTag(s)Followup Needed?
9/10/2019On the Annual Report project, I completed the JavaScript in half of the allotted time. Told PM, got a jump-start on other tasks. Was eventually able to accomplish one of the client’s “nice-to-have”s. Time Management, JavascriptNo
10/01/2019I finished reading the “PHP for Dummies” book. I have a much clearer understanding, workflow, etc etc…Personal Development, PHP, Servers, CMSNo
11/05/2019Kelly and I re-thought the approach to the newsletter on the Big Soda project. We worked well together and the client loved it. PM, AE, and Clients were very happy. We are planning on giving a small case study brown-bag lunch style to show our approach.DesignProblem Solving, Newsletter, Case StudyYes
Etc…

2. Problems Encountered

Similarly, you should take notes on problems you encounter, friction, and areas to improve. Having a list like this will help make “tough” conversations easier by having historical data. For example, If you’re trying to have a conversation like “I felt like I’ve have had a lot of friction with project managers the past few months because they *constantly* try to whittle down my task estimations.”

By adding historical data to the conversation, your standpoint may be more concrete in the eyes of the person you’re talking to. For example, this may be your conversation instead: “I have had 4 similar problems with Project Managers in the past 2 months. One was on A, two on B, and finally one on C. They pushed me to whittle down my estimates, which wound up hurting the project. What can we do to prevent this from happening?” This statement is much less

DateDescriptionOther DisciplineTag(s)Followup Needed?
9/10/2019On the Annual Report project, I was asked to half my estimate. It wound up taking exactly as much time as I originally estimated. Luckily, that “extra” time fit well within our contingency hours.Project ManagementEstimation, ContingencyNo
10/01/2019The designer on the Cell Phone project requested a single change on the day before launch, but didn’t test it thoroughly enough. It launched, then was revealed to be broken. We were able to fix it and deploy a patch before the client noticed.DesignChanges, Bugs, HotfixNo
11/05/2019Another developer and I had a hard time finalizing a pull request / code review. We need a policy on balancing “perfect” code/approach versus timliness.DevelopmentProcess, Pull Requests, Code ReviewsYes
Etc…

3. Direct Reports

I recommend a hybrid approach for direct reports: keep line items for both positive, negative, and neutral interactions. I use a single spreadsheet for my direct reports, with one tab for each person. This will pay back in droves when giving feedback or performance evaluations. It will also help you remember your reportee’s side of the story should something negative come up. An example scenario may be:

Project Manager: “Got a minute? Your reportee, Billy, is constantly billing too much time to his projects.”
You: “Actually, Billy has approached me 5 times over the past 3 months about how he was being pressured into reducing his estimates, then having the task take almost exactly as much time as his original estimation. Let’s instead talk about how we can alleviate the need to ask folks to reduce their estimates.”

DateReporteeAlignmentDescriptionOther Discipline / PersonTag(s)Followup Needed?
9/10/2019BillyPositiveLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Summum ením bonum exposuit vacuitatem dolorisDesign / GinaProcess, Problem Solving
No
10/01/2019ConstanceNeutralIta similis erit ei finis boni, atque antea fuerat, neque idem tamenProject Management / TedProcess, EstimatesYes
11/05/2019BillyNegativeDuo Reges: constructio interrete. Duo enim genera quae erant, fecit tria. MeFeedback, Meeting Follow-upYes
Etc…

Successful Meetings

Some meetings do really well with no structure, but I find the most successful meetings have the following qualities:

  1. A clear meeting organizer / person in charge
  2. An agenda
    • Agenda should be read by attendees in advance via the meting invite
    • Stick to the agenda
    • Organizer tables / parking-lots off-topic items
  3. Call in / video sharing / screen sharing available
  4. Someone with taking notes
    • Collaboratively, if necessary
    • Posts the notes to project resources
    • Creates action items from the notes
    • Follows up with an email, if necessary
  5. A clear and easy way out
    • Either before or during a meeting, any team member should be empowered to say something like “I don’t think I’m going to be useful here– do you mind if I duck out?”
      or “I’m not at all vested in the process here, just the result, so I’d prefer to duck out and just filled in afterwards.”

The Benefits of Downtime & Team Building

It’s the current trend to hate on screen time, saying that screens are killing people’s ability to be social & creative, and increases anxiety and depression. More studies are coming out that propose that screens aren’t the issue– it is a plain lack of time to zone out, be bored, and let your brain have a break & refresh. Screen time, news events, and FOMO all contribute in both obvious and subtle ways.

The tech industry has had a similar model for a few years. We’ve known about the obvious effects of burnout. How many times have you given or received the advice of:

“It’s 7pm, you’re not going to solve this tonight. Get a good night’s rest and you’ll tackle it with a fresh brain in the morning.”

There’s something magical about letting your mind wander: daydreaming, random contemplation, taking in your surroundings and not thinking about solving the problem. How many times have you had an aha moment in the shower, walking the dog, painting, during the commute, or while watching your favorite show? Your brain figures it out while you’re not.

How can you as a leader apply that to your team?

  • Set up your resourcing expectations so your team doesn’t have 100% of their day accounted for
  • Encourage team members to step away from their desks for a walk around the floor / building / block to clear their heads.
  • Encourage team members to get in some “water cooler” time for morning/afternoon coffee, tea, or to fill their water bottle. This is micro team building.
  • Arrange some sort of full team outings. This is large-scale team building. What does your budget allow for? Lunch down the street, a retreat, a conference, catered food in the office, other. Pick something that will help you show the team that the culture of the office is a priority.
  • Set up some team building time block (I call it Friday Team Time). This is medium-sized team building.

Team Time?

A happy team that can laugh together will work better together. Set up a recurring weekly or bi-weekly opt-in (if you want to and if you have time) team time block. Mid week, end of week, it doesn’t matter.

Utilize card games, board games, or party computer games. I lean towards the last option, as you can generally initiate the game on a laptop (connect it to a TV or projector), and then let your team use their phones or laptops as controllers– this means no one gets left out

If you can, set up a small snacks and beverage budget. If not, another option is to nominate a team member to be the snack monarch. Have them buy some snacks and beverages and have the other team members pay them back by using a mobile/micro payment/money transfer service like Cash.me or Venmo. $2 for a bowl of snacks. $2 for a beverage.

as a…

Manager/Leader

These are a collection of management-focused ideas of mine that describe my methodologies and values as a manager/leader/director. I also keep a repository of development and leadership/management-centric quotes. I use that in slideshow mode as my work computer’s screensaver.

I do as much professional development as possible, as well as speak, guest lecture, and teach whenever the opportunity arises.

Methodology

  • A large factor of success is process & consistency
  • Champion for continuous improvement, learning, knowledge sharing
  • Minimizing project blockers & pauses
  • Being a “player-coach” has many benefits
  • Upstream/proactive work over downstream/reactive work

Humanity & Culture

Operations & Performance

Team Dynamics

  • Hire people who are smarter than you
  • Interviews are a two-way street
  • Managers should be a heat shield not a sh*t umbrella
  • Trust and micromanagement are mutually exclusive

Feedback & Input

So you run a group or lead some people. You hear lots and lots of feedback and input: some good, some bad. How are you supposed to know which feedback to listen to, which to take action on, and which to discard immediately?

First, let’s start with the…

Types of input that you “shouldn’t” listen to:

  1. The One Who Cries Wolf
    • Quotes: “I see the XYZ problem, it’s right there!”
    • Realistically: By the time you get around to helping, the problem appears to never had existed.
  2. The Constant Complainer
    • Quotes: Today: “Problem XYZ is here.”
      Tomorrow morning: “Problem ABC happened again.”
      Tomorrow afternoon: “Problem DEF appears to be going on.”
    • Realistically: These people just can’t handle pressure, adversity, or problem solve for themselves.
  3. The Gossip Slinger
    • Quotes: “Person A told me they said the client is unhappy.”
      “Persons B, R and G are all slackers.”
    • Realistically: These people just need to mind their own business.
  4. The Excuse Maker
    • Quotes: “Problem XYZ is happening, but I understand it’s because of [insert excuse], so it’s ok.
      “Person Q quit last week, they loved their job but it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.”
    • Realistically: They’re right! I agree with their reasoning. No blame to be had.
  5. The Finger Pointer
    • Quotes: “Problem XYZ is happening, and it’s all Person B’s fault.
      “Person Q quit last week, and it’s because of their manager.”
    • Realistically: They’re just trying to deflect blame from themselves, and ultimately are troublemakers. Ignore them.
  6. The Oracle
    • Quotes: “If we don’t do that thing, then we’re going to have turnover.”
      “Client will not like our proposal.”
      “Person T seems uneasy lately.”
    • Realistically: They’re just trying to deflect blame from themselves, and ultimately are troublemakers. Ignore them.
  7. The Optimist
    • Quotes: “I’m sure if we tell Person K how important this is, they’ll pull it off.”
      “That problem is super specific to this project. We won’t have to worry about it again.”
    • Realistically: They’re probably right about most of these. If one person feels these things, I’m sure others do, too!
  8. The Perfectionist
    • Quotes: “Anything less than an A+ is a failure.”
      “We have to constantly press ourselves to do better.”
      “I’m not letting the product get out until it’s completely done. I’ll work all night if I have to.”
    • Realistically: They’re right. Strive to meet their expectations.
  9. The Nostalgic One
    • Quotes: “At my last job, we did XYZ.”
      Our last director always did PQR, and that worked well.”
    • Realistically: Get with the times! If you don’t like it here, go back to your old company.
  10. The Know-It-All
    • Quotes: “I read how XYZ Company does this.”
      “Expert G’s blog says that the right way is to do X.”
      “Industry standards are clearly to do JKL.”
    • Realistically: We’ll just stick to the way we’ve always done it. Besides, we don’t have the time or resources to do those things.
  11. The Quiet One
    • Quotes: Prefers to correspond via email or chat. Could also be described as non-confrontational or shy.
    • Realistically: If whatever they have to say isn’t important enough to say to my face or during a meeting, it doesn’t matter.
  12. The Manager Who Knows Better
    • Quotes: “Really? I didn’t hear that.”
      “There’s no way that can be true.”
      “I know they’re wrong.”
      “Person Q doesn’t have the whole story.”
    • Realistically: Managers have better perspective than the average worker, so their opinion should have much more weight.
  13. The Out-of-Left-Field’er
    • Something totally unexpected or out of character is brought to your attention.
    • Realistically: That observation simply cannot be true. Not in a million years. Discard this information.
  14. Yourself
    • Quotes: “I’m not sure.”
      “What do you think?”
      “Let’s ask the team.”
    • Realistically: Your instincts are usually wrong.

Actually, you should listen to all of them.

All of these are valuable input sources, and you should take them all into consideration. Get to know your team individually, their styles, and the types of things that may be pain points for different folks/roles/perspectives.

  1. The One Who Cries Wolf…
    • may be your best early-warning system
    • may identify surprises that could snowball
  2. The Constant Complainer…
    • may be a good representation of more people’s feelings, just be the most vocal about it
    • may be a flight risk (would that hurt the project, or snowball into a mass team exodus?)
  3. The Gossip Slinger…
    • may be the voice for people who don’t feel comfortable speaking up
    • may be giving you a nicely compiled list of common things they’ve heard
  4. The Excuse Maker…
    • may be trying to express themselves, but not want to be seen as a finger pointer
    • should those excuses be recorded to verify if they’re a more common problem?
  5. The Finger Pointer…
    • may actually help identify deficiencies in personnel or process
    • may feel that they have to constantly pick up others’ slack
  6. The Oracle…
    • may have great instincts that could prevent some problems
  7. The Optimist…
    • may be the best person to help boost team morale
    • could help refine some communication guidelines
  8. The Perfectionist…
    • may be the best person to help train others
    • be great at quality assurance testing, and help to identify future bugs
  9. The Nostalgic One…
    • may have extremely valuable past expertise
  10. The Know It All…
    • may be the best person to help you stay current, and not fall behind the curve
  11. The Quiet One…
    1. has feedback that is no less valuable than the others
    2. delivery method of feedback does not diminish its relevance
  12. The Manager Who “Knows Better”
    • there’s value to seasoned / historical perspectives, but you have to take into consideration what their perspective / agenda might be
    • Also, if someone in leadership or another management position is jumping to disprove or discredit someone else’s feedback– or defaulting to a defensive stance, that’s indicative of a different kind of problem.
  13. The Out-of-Left-Field’er
    • may be talking about something that IS unexpected and previously thought improbable.
    • Remember: your team members’ perceptions are their reality, so whether it happened or not, the event or perception should be acknowledged and followed-up on.
  14. Yourself…
    • might be the only one able to piece together the feedback from everyone above and distill it into meaningful change.
    • Trust yourself.

Strategies for getting feedback:

So what are some ways to start getting feedback? Maybe you don’t hear much, or maybe you have only one or two of the above mentioned types of feedback-givers. Here are some things to keep an eye (or ear) out for:

  • Word of Mouth – Listen up and take the time to absorb general conversation from your team members and conversation about your team members.
  • 1:1 Meetings – If you don’t already, set up recurring meetings with your team members at whatever pace works for you both: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. Be prepared with topical questions and agendas when appropriate, but also have time for open agenda.
  • Team Meetings – Same as above: be prepared with topical questions and agendas when appropriate, but also have time for open agenda.
  • Topical Survey – Use this to get measured input from your team. As a bonus, let it be anonymous so that team members can feel more empowered to be truthful.
  • “Suggestion box” Survey – Create a generic survey to leave open permanently. Let folks submit suggestions and problems, but also positive things like compliments and success stories.
  • Project Postmortems/Retrospectives – Run these after projects: both smooth and rocky ones. Take notes to turn the rocky parts into action items, and to reinforce the smooth parts (turn them into solid policy or process).

Processing feedback:

What works best for you? You definitely don’t want these valuable points to get lost in a notebook full of other todo’s– or pushed to the back of your mind. Optimally, you might capture feedback in a notebook reserved just for feedback, or perhaps a spreadsheet (Google Sheets or Airtable) that you keep updated.

Why? There’s lots of input to collect, and by storing it in a digital place, you may be able to use reporting or filters to determine trends and draw conclusions. The types of data I’d start with include:

  • Date – so you can report on frequency
  • Source – who was it from?
  • Source’s Discipline – so you can report on what types of people have problems
  • Category – what is the general area of feedback / complaint?
  • Tags – what are a few more granular descriptors so you can search/report on those?
  • Target – was this feedback about another person or another discipline?
  • Surface Occasions – have you surfaced the feedback to your boss, their boss, others leaders?

Wrap up:

Go forth and put a plan into action. Keep your eyes and ears open to all forms of feedback and input, both good and bad. Take notes in an organized way. Turn it all into quantifiable reasoning that results in action for your team or organization.