Whatever Next #11: Make feedback normal, not a performance review

About giving feedback, Amazon experiences, engagement surveys, succeeding, staff engineering, social media and Facebook, Netflix culture, and many others.

Hi @ll! Welcome to another issue of my newsletter! I hope you’re all safe in these uncertain times.

This week I will be sharing a wrap up of my recent readings, with topics like management, e-commerce, social media, psychology, links to resources, and other curiosities.

I hope it worth your time! And please, do not hesitate to add your comments or share your feedback. One of my goals is to learn from you.


🗣️ The employee feedback debate

Giving feedback is a hot topic. That’s why I used this quote “Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” from Ed Batista, an executive coach, and writer. Giving and receiving feedback should be part of our day-by-day, should be normal, not seen as a judgment.

There are several ideas, articles, and frameworks to provide useful feedback. But the truth is that we are human, we are all different, and even if we prepare it, this doesn’t assure that we will reach the goal, that is to help people succeed. People react in many different ways to feedback, and it is something to always consider. IMHO it is a must to address this topic before any review.

It was Elon Musk who said, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better”. A culture where people practice giving and receiving feedback every day can be so powerful. But this is about having a growth mindset. And being realistic, we cannot expect that all people are exactly the same unless we have set up clear values and hired based on them. We have to adapt based on the different people that depend on us.

Before providing feedback, we need to know the personality of who we are going to provide feedback. People always focus on the details they are willing to share, and the risk is not to establish any connection. If there’s no link between peers, the feedback won’t arrive at its destination, at least in the desired way.

This is what The Feedback Fallacy article is about. Tells us that the available readings are great, but that reality could work differently. Not all the available examples that worked in concrete cases, will work out. There might be different conditions. Also, the article recommends to focus on strengths and forget about weaknesses, which I don’t completely agree. We can’t always convert all our weaknesses into strengths, but I think that realizing about weaknesses is important in personal growth.

On the other hand, there was another HBR publication, What Good Feedback Really Looks Like, as a response of the previous article, that wanted to pint out that good feedback (positive and negative) is essential to helping managers enhance their best qualities and address their worst so they can excel at leading. It says “managers”, but it is relevant to anyone.

In the article, they recommend using the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) approach to address both strengths and weaknesses in a clear, specific, professional, and caring way, delivering feedback to minimize the threat response. Let me highlight these professional and caring adjectives because people usually forget that we are human beings before professionals. Truth to be told, the article's authors are from CCL, where the technique was developed. Find below a video about it.

📦 Surviving Amazon in Xmas

Daniel Rose joined Amazon in 1999, where he stayed seven years before moving to Facebook. And in the following Twitter thread shares his experience for the Xmas campaign. In the early years, Amazon sent all the corporate employees (engineers, finance, HR, sales) to help with orders at the fulfillment centers.

In retail, the Xmas campaign has always been the bulk of the yearly orders/income. Nowadays, Black Friday would sit on the throne (probably Singles Day would make it in the Chinese market). In these huge campaigns, it is usual to ask for help for the fulfillment center and especially stores, if you’re not a pure player.

Today, the whole picture has changed completely. Fulfillment centers are mostly automated. But it is nice to know about the experience form a person who was there. And it is interesting to see how they focused on their motto as “earth’s most customer-centric company”. As Daniel said, failing to deliver presents for Xmas would have been like Santa missing his deadline. Check the thread below.

🗳️ It only takes one engagement survey to destroy the company culture

It usually starts with the grandest intention to build the best place for employees. But it could fail at measuring what matters, or committing to take action and do something. This is the risk that the author Laszlo Bock raises with this cool phrase.

But why destroying culture? When asking, you create expectations, and you implicitly acknowledge it. So, when you don't act on what your people have told you, it isn't good for your company. Employees, asked to speak up, don't feel heard. Then, they feel hurt.

👐 None of us can make it alone

I started in a Reddit thread with a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech at Houston University. In the speech, Arnold dismissed the self-made man's idea and told the graduates that they shouldn't make the mistake of thinking they achieved their dreams without any help.

"I always tell people that you can call me anything that you want. […] But don't ever, ever call me the self‑made man. […] It took a lot of help. None of us can make it alone. None of us. […] I did it with a lot of help. Yes, I was determined. Yes, I never listened to the naysayers. Yes, I had a great vision. Yes, I had the fire in the belly and all of those things, but I didn't do it without the help."

It is a great speech. You could find the video and the transcript in the following Time magazine link. But returning to the Reddit thread, what was interesting here was his next contribution to the Reddit thread, explaining in the first person how he did it, and as he says, including all of the characters. Because we don't succeed alone, we all need help.

📖 The Staff Engineering project by Will Larson

Will Larson is the CTO of Calm and author of An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management. While there are several documentation and books about the transition from engineer to manager, there’s a lack of documentation about the path on technical excellence. That’s what the Staff Engineering project is about. The project aims to collect stories from the people who got there.

The transition into Staff Engineer, and its further evolutions like Principal Engineer, remains particularly challenging and undocumented. What are the skills you need to develop to reach Staff Engineer? What skills do you need to succeed after you've reached it? How do most folks reach this role? What can companies do to streamline the path to Staff Engineer? Will you enjoy being a Staff Engineer or toil for years for a role that doesn't suit you?

In the following twitter thread, you’ll find a bunch of these stories.

But as ends in the thread, feedback on these pieces or _missing_ pieces is very much appreciated here, via DM or email.

If you have any valuable experience to share and defend the idea that not all engineers should end as managers, please join the cause and help provide your feedback.

👎 Facebook still has a problem

I have included this topic several times in the last issues. But Facebook is still in the eye of the storm. We should be sharing the news about Facebook returning to its origins with Facebook Campus, but we still have to talk about its problems fighting hate and misinformation.

In the way of trying to avoid misinformation and manipulation for the upcoming elections, Mark Zuckerberg published several updates on policies and limitations. But even its good intentions, as this MIT article states, it’s unlikely that it will succeed in avoiding the current polarization and being a megaphone for hate, extreme groups, and discriminatory ads.

The consequences continue shaped as people leaving the company. In the following link from The Washington Post, you’ll find the resignation letter from a software engineer. Harsh words. The letter begins as follows:

I'm quitting because I can no longer stomach contributing to an organization that is profiting off hate in the US and globally.

As I reflect on my last five years, Facebook's five core values rise to the top of my mind. I'm going to share what I've learned from them, and how the absence of them in the company's approach to hate has eroded my faith in this company's will to remove it from the platform.

🎬 The Social Dilemma

Continuing with the social media, Netflix is publishing a new documentary about the dependence on social media and its consequences. Check out the trailer.

This documentary is not free of debate. You could find several threads like this twitter one, where they asked about the missed opportunity of asking the people who really addressed the problems, not only the ones that created them.

But everybody agrees that we have to talk about social media.

📚 No Rules book for Netflix

Reed Hastings, CEO, and co-founder of Netflix, has published a book: No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. In a Variety interview, he said that he had benefited reading other people’s books. So, he wanted to do the pay-it-forward thing and help the next generation of young organizations.

In the book, he shares how Netflix created and evolved its culture, fostering an environment of employee “freedom and responsibility”. Its disagreement and frank feedback policy isn’t easy to apply properly, and as he explains in the book, exporting its culture overseas haven’t always gone as he expected. Here you’ll find 5 takeaways from the book.

The Keeper Test deserves a complete chapter, and it is highly discussed in the book. In the way to build the most efficient team, they keep people answering this question, “Would you keep the person if they wanted to leave?”. It was created by chance, but now it’s part of their culture. Keepers are the people who make Netflix a better company.

📬 The best email newsletters

There’s a revival of email newsletters. As I also did some months ago starting this newsletter, lots of people are doing it so.

In case you enjoy reading them, and you’re interested, in the following thread, you’ll find a bunch of them.

❤️ Love and Passion for Jobs

There’s no better ending than finishing with Steve Jobs. Almost everybody loves the legend around him. Here I want to share a short video with two powerful insights. They are about love and passion at work and building teams of great people.

Without passion, any rational person would give up.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it!

Please, do not hesitate to add any comments. I am open to any suggestions, so if you want to add a comment or contact me, I encourage you to do it.

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