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Employee Feedback

Employee Feedback can be confronting

What I didn’t know….

One of the greatest challenges faced by us as individuals, team players, employees or leaders is that it is very difficult for us to get perspective. That is ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and we don’t even know how to see what we need to see because it is completely blind to us.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Perhaps it is dangerous – or perhaps it is just very expensive.

I know that employee feedback is important and critical to success. Being able to set up listening posts were team members can openly share their ideas, aspirations and insights are useful. There are online systems and processes for this… but the subtly of employee feedback can be lost. And what about validating these ideas. Is it one person’s opinion or a really valuable mission-critical piece of feedback?

I believe that I stay connected and that I listen with both ears – but what happens when people literally don’t tell me what is really going on because they don’t want to ‘upset’ me or they think I already know. Whether I am speaking to customers or a team member or even a friend. I often think that people tell me what I want to hear rather than warts and all truth.

At least once a month I would make sure that I have a one on one catch up casually with different employees – sometimes there is a certain nervousness about this encounter as I might not speak with that person regularly. However, I persist it is a chance to hear his or her story, learn about where they have come from, and what attracted them to the role and the company – but more importantly what they are hearing about our customer experience.

It is always such a delight but it tends to fall into the ‘PR’ category rather than valuable unbiased feedback.

I do ask “Is there anything that you think I should know?” Occasionally this question will elicit gold – but out of context I often don’t know if it is ‘one man’s opinion’ or a real issue. I needed a way to validate these thoughts and ideas.

As leaders we don’t have ESP, it takes someone telling us (or sorting it out themselves). My worst fear is to become like the ‘Emperor with new Clothes’ when no one tells us what is going on… But it is up to me to keep my ear to the ground and create a way that they can tell me their opinions.

So when I look at the team at we are small and agile, we are passionate and committed – but the results are not flowing as fast as we would like. We hear lots of great feedback from potential customers – about how valuable our peer to peer recognition tool is… yet there is a miss match between what is said and what is done.

I knew I had to find someone – or an organisation who could help me look beyond what my status quo is. Someone to independently ask the right questions. Is there are a market for your product, what are the key messages and drivers for your customers – and are you delivering on it.

Frankly, I needed someone to be completely brutal with me – I also needed someone who was completely impartial and outside my realm… in fact, I chose an organisation that was even in another geographic region.

Who could help me listen? Who could help me see the blue sky… who could help me think and design based on independent customer insights? We chose the design thinking process which is a human-centred approach to solving problems. It’s a blend of divergent and convergent thinking allowing for a wide exploration of possibilities vs. being fixated on a single solution. I have been told that the approach is rigorous yet free flowing allowing teams to create customer experiences that will be awesome, by design and unencumbered from the past.

“It is about being in love with the problem rather than the product”

In the end, I chose a design thinking firm called Pensaar – it came recommended from a fellow entrepreneur. Headed by Deepa Bachu with 20+ years of experience in design, innovation and product management functions she and her team came with an alternate view – being relentless over the problem we are solving rather than in love with the product we have already created. Whilst the process has just begun – I have deliberately chosen to leave them to it – not influencing their ideas because of my passion for small business and what we have already achieved – I need an alternate view.

This process is part of the framework for success and including employee feedback in that is important. Success by design not by accident. I will keep you posted on the journey..

Reader Interactions


  1. Oh my Naomi – this is fantastic.
    I have written in red, bold letters in my diary – be in love with problem rather than the product.
    Food for thought – thanks for sharing.

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