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The practice of giving and receiving clear and direct feedback embodies core HashiCorp principles. Being truthful and straightforward with colleagues and with yourself requires reflection and integrity. Constructively discussing with a direct report the areas in which they’re falling short of expectations is an act of kindness (not to be confused with “niceness”). Communicating appreciation of effort, or recognition for a job well done, helps people know they are on the right track and contributing valued work. And the ability to receive feedback, whether positive or critical, with an open mind is grounded in humility.
We have a real focus on our principles when giving and receiving feedback, which ties into why our culture is strong and how we're enabling it to continue to be strong as we grow and become more global.
How We Assess Employee Performance
Reach, HashiCorp’s twice-a-year performance assessment program, is a formal opportunity for managers and employees to establish and examine developmental goals and expectations. The Reach process for each employee includes a self-reflection, 3 peer reviews, direct report reviews if the person is a manager. For each employee, this information is synthesized by their manager to clearly state strengths and weaknesses. This reflective process helps to bolster growth by encouraging employees to think about ways to expand in your role and increase your contributions to the company.
The reason we call it Reach is that, at HashiCorp, we're all reaching to do better and better work with each cycle of delivery. We compare ourselves not to one another, but to our past performance.
With Reach, managers are expected to both recognize and appreciate employees’ strengths as well as constructively help their employees to alter course when necessary. Both the appreciative and constructive aspects of feedback are essential for all employees. Reach is an opportunity for managers to consider and convey a cohesive picture of an employee’s performance.
An important and unique aspect of Reach is a focus on upward and horizontal feedback. In addition to receiving feedback, employees also provide feedback for their managers and colleagues. We encourage employees to foster a community in which they can coach and learn from one another.
One of my direct reports gave me feedback regarding our meeting cadence. We had a weekly 1:1 to review priorities and discuss projects, and I would often reschedule it because I’d get added to other meetings. My direct report let me know that rescheduling our 1:1 impacted them negatively, causing frustration and affecting their deliverables. The feedback was a gift: I took more control over my schedule, and now I hold 1:1s with my team members as the most important meetings of my week.
Finally, self-reflection is a key component of HashiCorp’s formal performance evaluation. Reach provides an opportunity to look back on what you’ve done and accomplished, and to assess what adjustments you can make to have a greater impact. These reflections can then help you create your Professional Development Plan.
Clear and Direct Feedback in the Moment
At HashiCorp, we believe that feedback is best given in the moment when it can make a difference to the work itself. While Reach is an opportunity to take a broader look at one’s development, we also urge managers and employees to create and nurture a clear and direct feedback loop at all times. We encourage you to frequently give as well as solicit feedback from your managers and peers.
Feedback should be shared as situations arise. Reviews should not contain any surprises.
I believe practicing often is the trick. When managers see a team member do something well, pointing it out in the moment reinforces the behavior. It's not only motivating for the team member but also an easy way to create an engaged culture.
How to Best Give and Receive Feedback
Whether in Reach or in less formal exchanges, we use a non-evaluative framework, Situation Behavior Impact™ model (SBI) developed by The Center for Creative Leadership, to guide feedback. To give feedback using the SBI approach, begin by describing a situation—a time and place when something happened. Then use an active verb—that isn’t “to be”—to describe a behavior or something an employee did. Finally, recount the impact of the described behavior—the effect it had on a project, situation, or team member’s performance. This approach emphasizes a focus on behavior, which can be enhanced or changed, rather than personality, which cannot. Also key to SBI is a focus on facts and details, rather than feelings. For example, with the issue about meeting cadence described earlier, you might tell your manager, “Last week when you rescheduled our 1:1 it delayed my deliverables.”
When receiving feedback, you should first of all listen with curiosity. If you have a strong emotional response to a piece of feedback, sit with it and consider your feelings before you evaluate whether or not the feedback is useful. When you do evaluate feedback, ask yourself the question, “Have I heard this before?” If you have received similar feedback in the past, you will likely want to make a plan to act on the information you’re getting. If, on the other hand, the feedback is entirely new, you should investigate. If additional data confirms that this feedback is valid, then plan to act on the feedback. And even if you don’t believe the feedback is valid, don’t disregard it. File it for later, and keep that file open as you collect more feedback.
Soliciting feedback is valuable when you’re uncertain about how to handle a specific situation or about whether or not you’re effectively meeting agreed-upon expectations. The SBI framework is useful for soliciting as well as giving feedback. When using SBI to solicit guidance or a second opinion from a manager or peer, you might describe a situation and behavior and then ask about its impact. You also could ask a manager or peer to evaluate a broader area of your work or development goals, and they will use a principle-based, SBI approach to give you information about your work and performance. Solicited feedback is most useful when you have a clear focus—rather than just asking, “How am I doing?”, put your request for feedback into an actionable format. For example, you could say, “As a project team member, you had a chance to observe my meeting management skills. Can you tell me what you think I did that had a positive impact as well as what I might have done differently?”
A Look to the Future
Giving clear and direct feedback is challenging and requires training and practice. Employees can find more information on our Reach program site where we provide links to learning and resources. For more reading, we recommend checking out Thanks for the Feedback and the Center for Creative Leadership.