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Giving Feedback Remote Is Hard—Here's How to Do It

Giving feedback minimizes drama, triangulation, and misunderstandings. So why do we keep it to ourselves instead of sharing?

Bentley Coplin Holmes is the co-founder of Conscious Culture, which takes a more strategic, impactful and human approach to HR.

I learned recently from a tai chi expert that 50% of our chi (i.e. energy) is blocked if we’re keeping a secret. That’s a huge percentage, isn’t it? We don’t really talk about “keeping secrets” in a workplace context, but if I translated this into work lingo, it might read: 50% of our flow is blocked when we’re withholding honest feedback.

Working from a “flow state” is highly sought after—as is creating a workplace where people give and receive feedback directly. We inherently know that this is the better way to operate. Having feedback conversations minimizes drama, triangulation, and misunderstandings. It creates more safe and trusting working relationships, and ultimately gives us more capacity to do our best work.

So why do we keep feedback to ourselves instead of sharing it? I find it comes down to two common reasons: (1) people pleaser tendencies and (2) power dynamics. And now there’s a new barrier at play since the majority of us have shifted to working remotely.

My co-founder, Tiffany, aptly described the problem as “having fewer small deposits in our relational piggy banks.” When we were in an office setting, these small deposits looked like: grabbing coffee, swapping stories from the weekend, smiling in the hall, or laughing during a meeting. In person, you have the opportunity to make dozens of small deposits a day that build trust and strengthen connection. That way, when it comes time to make a withdrawal (i.e. have a hard conversation), there’s more relational capital in the bank.

Now that we have fewer interactions, it feels more difficult/awkward to bring up hard things. So what can we do about it? I’ve been asking myself this question lately, not just to better support our clients, but to be proactive with our team at Conscious Culture too. Here are some things we’re trying:

  • Coffee & Connect: Thirty minutes on the calendar each week to simply drink coffee and connect as people.
  • Personal & Professional Wins: Time at the top of our weekly team meeting to share our personal and professional wins. (We borrowed this one from Traction!)
  • #Shoutout Slack Channel: A thank you can go a long way, and Slack creates space for public shoutouts in real time. As company leaders, we’ll commit to posting in it weekly.
  • Time Together IRL: As much as we try to compensate online, there’s nothing quite like time together in real life. Tiffany and I live in different cities and have been getting together quarterly, and want to increase this to monthly, plus get the full team together 2-3x/year. (Admittedly, this is easier as a small team, but our larger clients are seeing the ROI of team events too.)

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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