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Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition Make Your OKRs Better — Especially When Remote

Jason Diamond Arnold

March 27, 2020

The world has suddenly shifted to a virtual workforce due to the international crisis caused by Coronavirus. As the threat of the virus likely subsides over the next several weeks, there will be lasting changes in the way we work and how we collaborate moving forward.

As the world evolves into a more permanent virtual workforce, it will become more important than ever to have a set of best practices and technologies that help organizations execute business strategy, develop leaders, and keep their workforce engaged while pursuing their goals.

There is a cannon of business literature and blog articles on what OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are and how to implement them across both your business. But there is very little research or advice on how the OKR goal-setting framework can help motivate and engage employees more effectively. And in a virtual workforce, it becomes even more challenging to collaborate and create transparency across the organization when pursuing our team and organizational objectives.

Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRs) serve as the fuel for OKRs. They provide a context for important discussions around critical team and organizational objectives — they are the why behind the what. CFRs help get buy-in, gauge motivation and ability, and help leaders assess the psychological needs of their team members as they work together towards their goals.

As the world evolves into a more permanent virtual workforce, it will become more important than ever to have strong #leadership and #communication. @InspireSoftware offers advice on how to keep your team focused on the objectives:Tweet This!

The components of CFRs function as the following:

  • Conversations: an authentic exchange between a leader and individual contributor, aimed at having a dynamic and rich discussion, centered on performance — from both the leader and individual perspectives.
  • Feedback: In-the-moment communication that evaluates progress, guides future improvement, and generally maintains accountability on a given objective.
  • Recognition: Expressions of appreciation throughout a goal’s progress to acknowledge good work, align with individual and organizational values, and promote healthy motivation and engagement during the pursuit of goals.

How are CFRs critical in a virtual environment?

Conversations Are Key For Successful Remote Work

Leading in a one-to-one context is critical to individual growth and success, and it’s important to pair OKRs with this mindset. Because we’re working in remote settings during the current international crisis, we easily run the risk of losing transparency into goal progress as well as the psychological needs of our people. These conversations now take on a new level of responsibility for maintaining — they’re no longer just a practice for guiding performance, but also to maintain clear communication around progress, expectations, roadblocks, and the overall engagement levels of individuals and teams pursuing critical goals.

Use FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams to pull up your goal setting software quickly. Have ongoing conversations around what’s happening regarding the goal, what mounting needs there are, if anything is physically or emotionally holding them back, and how the timeline is adapting as work is completed. Especially if more than one person is working towards a common objective, team leaders and managers are the keystones that keep the objective stable and steady. Effective conversations around goal progress keeps work flowing, helps others in their motivational needs, and allows for the creative problem-solving process when necessary — just as would happen in the office and sometimes even better when we aren’t distracted by other coworkers in our office space.

Feedback Helps Keep the Objective Top of Mind

The dynamic is different when we’re at home — somewhat isolated from the every day face-to-face interactions with others. Especially if your team is new to working remotely, there is bound to be a moment where gaps in accountability grow. Feedback will always be an effective practice when pursuing team and individual objectives, but it becomes even more meaningful when the road to success is more ambiguous than the norm.

Effective feedback serves to keep performance flowing toward the objective and increases teamwork, accountability, and helps influence future performance. As we’re all settling into our new normal, it’s important that everyone supports team members and holds one another accountable as you work together to achieve a common goal.

Maintaining open #feedback and #communication while working remotely helps align your #leadership strategies with your OKRs. Check out the tips @InspireSoftware has for staying on track while virtually collaborating:Tweet This!

5 Tips to Help Teams Provide Peer Feedback

  1. Focus feedback on the objective rather than the person. You can provide as much feedback you think is necessary, but if the feedback isn’t relative to the goal you’re collectively pursuing, it can seem personal and out of place. When giving feedback to teammates, stay focused on the process and the problems related to pursuing the goal. Team feedback should be factual, not just based on personal perceptions, and it should help contribute to the overall objective.
  2. Consider who this feedback serves. Ask team members to think about whether or not their feedback is because they want to say something because they’ll feel better, or is it because they think it will genuinely help improve the process or achieve the goal?
  3. Provide context for the feedback. Is it relevant to the receiver? Make sure feedback serves your common objective and the work you’re both doing, not something that’s “out of left field.”
  4. Be Intentional with your feedback. A lot of things can be miscommunicated, misinterpreted, or left out when people give feedback off-the-cuff. Preparation makes it more clear, concise, and meaningful. Learn to give feedback as an intentional attempt to improve things.
  5. Be descriptive. Without specific examples, it can be difficult for individuals to understand exactly how to implement feedback. Instruct team members to be objective and specific. Consider how it pertains to the objective team members are both working on and don’t pass judgment. Even if it is positive feedback, let the receiver know exactly what prompted you to give positive feedback.

Recognition Keeps Things Optimistic

Effective recognition practices for an employee’s ideas are a powerful way to make a positive impact on engagement, loyalty, and even productivity. Especially when times are uncertain, and employees may feel uneasy, effective recognition is a meaningful practice that allows leaders to assure that team members are valued and appreciated. Remember that the quality of recognition you give and how you do it is important, but in times like these, it might help to make your recognition more frequent and virtual. Find a platform that you regularly collaborate on and customize your own form of recognition or use tools available to you. Quality recognition can ease tension and demonstrates that, even now, you see the efforts your employees are putting in and the good work they’re doing.

Inspire Software makes it easy to set, track, and manage your OKRs, and provides a simple framework for maintaining progress and productivity through built-in conversations, recognition, and feedback tools, within the context of your goals, your teams, and the new reality of a virtual workflow. We know these are challenging times, so please reach out to us if you’d like guidance on how to make your transition to virtual work a little smoother and more collaborative — without losing sight of your goals.