In response to my post about viewing your teammates as idiots last week, Cara wrote:

I have yet to see that there is a successful way to get people to stop thinking of almost all others as “idiots” if they don’t want to. Sometimes this is straight-up narcissism on their part, but sometimes I think it’s also some pretty deep-seated insecurity, which would make it even less likely to see much change happen very fast in an individual’s attitudes. What was your best trick (as a people and project manager) to try to work in teams in such a situation?

First, I believe people ultimately have to be accountable for their own attitudes.  I know people have different backgrounds, live in different circumstances, and have faced different challenges in their life, but if you don’t own your attitude, no one’s going to do it for you.  If you believe everyone around you is an idiot, then it’s unlikely even the best project manager can change that attitude.

On the other hand, I do believe feedback loops can go a long way to stemming the “everyone else is an idiot” problem.  A feedback loop is any process where a teammate gets information, formal or informal, on how they’re doing.  As long as the feedback is constructive (that means it focuses on both positive and negative sides of an individual’s performance), it qualifies.  Performance evaluations, coffee chats, peer reviews…it doesn’t matter how feedback loops get done, they just need to be part of any team.

Why are feedback loops important?  Because whether we want them or not, we can’t get better at our jobs if we don’t have a yardstick to gauge it by.  And in my experience, people are not really great at knowing themselves.  Their internal image of themselves (hard-working, respected) doesn’t always match their teammates’ (lazy, never on time).  Aligning of the internal and external image of our professional selves is key to career growth.  It may be hard medicine to swallow when someone says you’re not doing as great as you thought, but what’s the alternative?  Teammates don’t respect you, you don’t improve and grow, and in the worst case scenario, you’re fired without getting any chance to prove yourself.

And the kicker here: managers are in charge of creating feedback loops. I don’t care if you’ve got admin forms to fill, a looming deadline, or 13 other tasks on your plate.  Let’s be realistic: you’ll always have admin forms, deadlines, and other stuff to do.  As a leader, you need to make time to create feedback loops, even if something else doesn’t get done.

-Deborah Fike

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