The other day I did the simplest thing. It took 15 minutes. And the amount of value it produced was totally ridiculous.
Without fanfare or process, without preparation or reflection, I sat down with two colleagues and suggested we give each other feedback. “Let’s not think too much about this,” I said. “Let’s just write down one thing the other people do well and should keep doing, and one thing that doesn’t work and they should stop doing it immediately.”
We took one minute to write down two things for each other. We took five minutes each to exchange the information. No commentary. No explanations. We simply gave our two answers, and a few times, we gave a specific example to help the recipient to understand the advice.
It was fantastic.
Keep Doing This, Stop Doing That
I learned a few super helpful things about how I annoy people I work with, and I’ve tried right away to stop doing them (or at least to notice when I am doing them, which is still progress). We built a new level of trust among the 3 of us, because we cut to the chase and gave each other frank feedback without sugar-coating. We all felt good about ourselves because in a matter of minutes, we heard things our colleagues appreciated about us that we didn’t realize before. And we deepened our sense of each other as a team, because now we all feel invested in helping each other to improve the things that aren’t working.
Of course, a quick-and-dirty exchange of off-the-cuff coaching doesn’t replace thoughtful feedback, meaningful mentorship, or an in-depth performance review at the end of the year. No one would call this “managing talent.” I completely agree.
However, given the range of ways we waste 15 minutes a day, many times a day, the return on investment here was absurdly great.
Do It Yourself
Try it. Pull two people aside at work and exchange one “keep doing this” and one “stop doing that.” Only spend a few minutes on each person. Promise to be honest and to speak for the purpose of helping each other improve. Think of an example that makes your points clear. Then take what people say in the right spirit. Don’t waste your time getting your feelings hurt. This is great information that will make you better. This rocks.
I hope you go for it. It’s very simple, and insanely helpful.
Erica Ariel Fox is a founding partner at Mobius Executive Leadership, a lecturer in negotiation at Harvard Law School, and a senior adviser to McKinsey Leadership Development. She is the author of Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change (HarperBusiness, 2013).