Sparrow Says - The gift of feedback

Greg Graham
By Greg Graham | 20 October 2021
Greg Graham, AKA Sparrow.

A career advice column from Greg Graham. Email and put "SPARROW" in the subject line to ask a question.

Reader’s question: I’m starting a new role in an agency whilst in lockdown. What advice do you have when all the usual tips and tricks are off limits? I’m nervous about not being able to ask questions in person, witness interpersonal dynamics first hand or read body language when presenting work to colleagues to gauge how I’m doing.

Sparrow says:

Congratulations on your new role and you have good instincts for asking such a perceptive question. Onboarding under any circumstances is challenging, let alone in a pandemic. Agencies think they do this well, but I’ve seen how easy – and how common – it is to mishandle a new employee coming on board.

First impressions and your initial experience when you join an agency are paramount and can have quite a lasting impact. In Australia, our local tech companies such as Atlassian and Canva really understand the vital nature of getting onboarding right and, I believe, they’ve nailed the experience.

With a virtual onboarding, it’s even more important to go above and beyond and really deliver on engagement and human needs. Managers need to be upskilled and act more like coaches and mentors than ever before.

In an environment where teams are rarely in the same room together, managers must make up for it by implementing rituals and structure – such as daily check-ins, team scrums/WIPs and other opportunities for team connection – plus allowing space and time for vital personal interactions. I would also explore every opportunity on how to replicate the daily learning experience, creative collaboration, creative spark or magic that can happen with people just hanging out together in the office.

I agree being able to read people’s faces, body language, good old gut feel plus being able to sense what’s not being said is vital. It’s a lot harder to do this through a screen, but not impossible. It requires over playing and compensating by continually pausing, making sure you’re actively listening and being inquisitive. Ask lots of questions, gain clarity and leave space for people to breathe, think and ponder. Upfront I would manage expectations and express your desire for collaboration and your intent is to ask heaps of questions and elicit responses

Be very disciplined and continually ask for “The Gift.’’ The gift of feedback, so you can gauge and track how you are going. It’s imperative to be open and honest and ask for feedback even when it may be in an awkward or tricky circumstances.

The simple question “How did that go?’’ is very effective .The virtual world sucks our energy and zaps our personal skills – and we have to readdress that. People like you are this industry’s number one resource. At a time when talent shortages are colliding with ‘the big resignation’, improving our agency people practices is a matter of survival.

As an industry, we have to get better at onboarding, nurturing, developing, training and retaining our talent. And most importantly in a virtual world, we must provide “The Gift” of feedback!

Greg“Sparrow’’Graham: Coach/Trainer/Pitch Doctor & Advisor at The Nest Consultancy


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