Hello L∞pGain!

Pedro Vicente
LoopGain
Published in
7 min readDec 18, 2018

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Team Feedback — Taking your team from the comfort zone to the trust zone!

(Read this article in Portuguese)

What’s this exactly?

After working in several companies and volunteer organisations, with very small to very to large teams, we found one thing that was always an issue.

Feedback.

This happened while at organisations that had evaluation processes or where spontaneously day-to-day feedback was preferred. It happened while working with waterfall methodologies, agile or with none at all.. all lacked a common time for teams to really stop and talk!

Talk about how we feel, what we like, dislike and how to improve as a team and enjoy our work even more!

Yes, most of us gave feedback to one another, but… we were mainly addressing superficial stuff, or just work related processes, so…

We envision a session focused on the team:

  • if we liked working with each other;
  • how we can improve and be even better at working with each other;

How do we diagnose that a team needs this?

Well we found out that the easiest way is when the team can’t answer very simple things:

  • What’s the thing that the person on your left most dislikes that some/all team members do?
  • What’s the thing that a person on your right most likes about the team?

(Those are just a few examples..)

But…

Do you know this? If you do great, maybe you don’t need this! 🎉

If you don’t… maybe you agree this is important, maybe you disagree and find that this is too personal. Anyhow give this article a chance and read the next couple of paragraphs

I can only advocate that whenever I could answer those questions, the teams, where I was working, were far more proficient and pleasanter to work.

We experienced this in a large range of teams: from software development, medical teams, teams to summer camp volunteers; agile teams and waterfall teams; both small (4 people) up to larger teams (12 people).

Still this is just an opinion and we truly agree with…

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”― Jim Barksdale

So check this Google’s study on what matters to a team’s success.

TLDR: What mattered most: Trust.

Why the deck?

After more than 2 years doing successful feedback sessions on multiple teams, we noticed its’ bigger expansion blocker to other teams was.. it was complex for anyone to just start without help…

So..

We understood that the next step must be to create something that makes these sessions doable in 2 minutes without any help.

L∞pGain was born!

The deck is simply a tool to make the sessions easy to do without effort.

This deck is composed by 50 playing cards, distributed among 4 categories:

Motto, Positive Reinforcement, Improvements and Personal Questions

Each category has questions of 3 different levels (of depth):

  • Level 1 (*) is associated with superficial questions
  • Level 2 (**) with intermediate questions
  • Level 3 (***) with deeper questions.

It’s recommended that the selected level is adapted to the current status of the team (i.e. if it’s a recent team and people don’t know each other well, Level 1 is recommended).

Curious? It’s easy to get a deck.. and setup a session in 2 minutes just by following the instructions 👇

Instructions: 10 simple steps

(it’s waaaay easier that building furniture!)

  1. Gather the team.
  2. Make sure that everybody has a pen and a sheet of paper.

3. Set the timer: point to 10 minutes per person + 10 minutes for startup and closing (ex: 5 people = 60m) — For each session to be productive, the timer should always be visible to everyone — either if it’s physical or digital… and make sure it’s respected

4. Select 1 card per category (4 in total), either completely random or selected according to a specific level.

5. Read them out loud and give 5 minutes for everyone to note down the answers to each card (Personal Questions card is about themselves; the Positive and Improvements about each other team member; Motto is just to set the session spirit).

6. After that ask for a volunteer to be the first to receive feedback in the session. Going clockwise, every team member shares the answers to the Positive Reinforcement and Improvements cards about the volunteer (without it being a conversation).

7. When it reaches the volunteer they can briefly comment the feedback received and then share the answer to the personal question.

8. Proceed close-wise to the next person to receive feedback. Follow the same rules described above. Stop when everybody has received feedback (if you are reaching the time limit decide together if you should proceed or stop and continue next session)

9. Stop when timer marks 5 min left or there is no one left: Ask for comments on the session itself, and how people felt about and on it.

  • Should we schedule the next session? Was the time adequate?
  • If the answer is yes, if the answer is yes then how often? (monthly, every quarter…)?

10. Great! It’s done!

Note: Cards picked during a session can be kept aside on the following sessions to avoid being repetitive. You have 12 of each to be able to do 1 session per month without repeating.

It’s easier to understand with an example…

Let’s assume a random pick of cards… and you could end up with:

Motto:

This is not a shit sandwich session. Praise what you see as positive, and suggest improvements for things — you think — can be done in a different way.

Positive reinforcement:

3 situations where I noticed _ did something that really helped the team

Improvements:

3 situations that _ struggled/struggles to deal with.

Personal question:

What would be the simple indulgence or gift you would really appreciate when tired or under stress

Want to start?

Jump by our website and get a deck!

Note: We skipped crowdfunding and have printing the first batch of 100 that flew in days. We have a 2nd edition now that has 50x more decks that should keep with the demand for a while.

Just one more thing…

Did your team have a feedback session?
- Was it useful?
- Did you follow this exact process or tweaked it somehow?

If you can spare a couple of minutes please a comment here, via feedback@loopgain.org or drop me a message at twitter to share some thoughts on this and how we can improve it.

We deeply appreciate it!

FAQ

When did you know this would really work?

Right from the first session where we used this methodology. There is a quick story from the first sessions that Pedro Vicente did that illustrates this very well:

The personal question was something like: “Can you share something that really bothers you?”

I was waiting for more generic comments, but one of my colleagues said very simply “I really don’t like when you guys hit the table with your hands out of frustration. My monitor shakes for a couple of seconds and it kind of drives me mad.”

Well… we did this probably every single day since we worked together — most of the times just as a joke — since we worked together… for more than 3 months. He had never mentioned it.🤯

What do we need as a team for this to work?

For this to be a proper feedback session you’ll need everybody on the team to be aware that:

  • You do not own the absolute truth, it’s just your point of view. Remember that.
  • This is not a shit sandwich session. Praise what you see as positive, and suggest improvements for things you think can done in a different way.
  • This will only work if you trust people around you. Let’s start?
  • Remember that you will be working with the same people tomorrow. Be honest but also gentle.
  • We are all different, we probably value different things, and there is nothing wrong about that.

Why ask 3 things in most of the questions?

If it’s just one thing people normally pick the obvious things — those that everybody is already aware. 3 makes you really think about it. Anyway, it isn’t an all or nothing, if there aren’t 3 things you remember... it’s ok, if you truly thought about it!

Why those specific questions?

The idea is to provide either positive questions (to reinforce behavior), or constructive questions (to offer options to things or behaviors we believe should be different).

The biggest point is avoiding the common “you did this wrong”. That just makes people become defensive. Besides, feedback needs to provide an alternative way to do something, it helps the person giving feedback to really think about it not just rant.

Why personal questions?

Well... I actually already spoke about that above. People are not machines. If you trust and like to work with people around you... it’s better for everyone. To make this possible you normally need to know the people around you so you can understand their decisions/behavior.

Why 3 different question depth levels?

Not everyone is ready on day 1 to share deeply personal things. If the team isn’t already working very well, it’s even harder. I’d suggest you always start by the single dot questions and ramp up.

Who created this?

The original concept is from Maria Cortês Ferreira Vicente and Pedro Vicente and the design from Atelier N8 — Design & Consulting

A big thanks to the pioneers that believed in this: Maria João Correia, Renato Almeida, Ricardo Vieira and Luis Franqueira.

Finally thanks Mindera for being a place where this was possible to build.

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Pedro Vicente
LoopGain

Improver, Husband, Father of 3 & Software @minderaswcraft | Feedback @ LoopGain | Communities @GDGPorto | 🔥 @ O Que Arde Cura