Using peer feedback for a fair assessment of people and a better team culture

Benjamin (Sr Director of Engineering at Datto) realizes that he could not fairly assess people by himself anymore, Benjamin asks for peer feedback and eventually builds up his team’s trust.

Problem

At my previous company, performance measurements and assessments were done by me, with my own input. I would look at people’s code and evaluate how they would interact with each other. As my teams grew, I was becoming too involved in the scrum process, which forced me to step away from these operational activities. As this transition occurred, I felt that I could not fairly assess my direct reports by myself.

Actions taken

I decided to roll out a survey to my team members asking them a few questions about their peers. I got some flowery praise at first, which made this new process meaningless. It took a few rounds for people to be more candid and send me some real feedback.

Eventually, the goal of that move was not only to give me insider’s feedback on people, but also to hold the team accountable and provide a work environment in which people are not afraid to tell others what they think.

To do so, when I receive the feedback, I sometimes ask the person to directly go to their colleague and tell them what they have told me. Then we talk again and they let me know how it went.

Lessons learned

I believe the best teams are the ones that trust each other, who are not afraid of conflict and who get rid of garbage talk.

Peer feedback is a great way to assess people, especially when you have stepped away from operational interactions with your direct reports. It also gives you some ideas about how much the team members are able to tell each other what they think, which is in my opinion what makes the best teams. By sending out this survey and encouraging people to talk to each other, I built up trust amongst them.


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