Thumbs Up for Feedback!

  • Bob is consistently late to meetings.
  • Sara’s tasks are always doing “just fine” up until the last minute: then suddenly there is a crisis and it can’t be done on time.
  • Your overall team effort seems to be losing momentum compared to your pace at the beginning of the project.
  • Michael and Susan are strong team players and often go the extra mile behind the scenes to support the team: but their effort is too often not explicitly recognized

Sound familiar?

These are just a few of the messy things that can happen to a project team.

So how do you prevent such things from happening, or at least reduce the number of times they occur?

Sometimes the answer can be found in the THUMBS of each team member.

Thumbs are pretty cool voting tools:

Thumbs up

  • They are always with you
  • They can be called upon by anyone on the team
  • They can express an infinite range of feedback: from 0 to 100% – in a flash
  • And they are often brutally honest!

All you need to do is ask:

Asking for team votes using the thumbs-up/ thumbs-down/ somewhere-in-between method can be very helpful when obtaining team feedback or establishing group norms.

To help Bob from being consistently late, for example, you can call for a thumb-vote to set new ground rules for starting and ending meetings on time:

“In the past few months I’ve noticed we have slipped into the habit of waiting until everyone is present before starting our meetings, which is typically 5 to 10 minutes late. I would like to respect everyone’s time and suggest that for all future meetings we start and end on time. So let’s take a quick thumbs-up / thumbs-down vote on that. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down for starting and ending all future meetings on time : “

Of course in this case, if you have anything less than unanimous thumbs-up, you’ll need to work though the issues and identify solutions as needed. But the quickie thumbs up, thumbs-down or sideways vote will help you assess the situation and create a zone of safety for the less expressive members of the team.

For help in the early detection of tasks in trouble, ask each person to give a thumb-rating on the status of their project tasks at the conclusion of their report:

Thumbs down“Thanks for the update, Sara. How about a quick summary thumbs-up/down rating on how confident you are that this task will be completed on time.”

I have found that for some reason our thumb seems to tell the truth more often than our mouth. A less than confident thumbs-up rating is always worth investigating, either in-the-moment or soon after the meeting.

Thumb up-downUpon completion of all project status reports, a call for a thumbs-up vote on the overall team performance can be helpful in assessing how well you are functioning as a team. If you see a lot of thumb movement during the vote, it may be time to check-in on what’s working or not working for the team.

And finally, thumb-votes are also helpful in giving group feedback and support to individuals. After hearing a new recommendation or progress report, for example, it may be a good time to ask the team for a thumbs-up for Michael and Susan for all their behind-the-scenes effort in putting together the report.

Nice job

So: do you currently use a thumbs-up approach to obtain feedback on your team or other equally effective method for helping to create an atmosphere of open communication and accountability?

Please let me know. I’d love to hear about it.


1 thought on “Thumbs Up for Feedback!”

  1. User Avatar

    These are key issues on 100% of the project teams that I have been on. Great Tools and Techniques do not need to cost a lot of money. Great Post Doug!

    Rosemary Hossenlopp PMP, MBA
    Author of the forthcoming book “Unearthing Business Requirements, Elicitation Tools and Techniques”

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