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SMS approach: effective way to obtain feedback and stay on track

SMS approach stands for stop doing, do more of and start doing. It is an effective way to solicit feedback as you develop your career, grow your business or start a family.

It is simple and effective way to very succinctly and in no vague terms keep up with your stakeholders’ opinions, concerns and needs, be it your boss, your teammates, your spouse, your kids or your siblings.

You probably noticed this approach is heavily used in surveys. In fact my company, Firmsconsulting.com uses this approach to get feedback from clients and it works very well for us. We ask what should we stop doing, what should we do more of and what should we start doing. We then review results and look for patterns in responses to determine the changes we want to make.

If you just ask for feedback, it likely will be vague, not comprehensive and not particularly useful

Soliciting feedback from your colleagues or your boss, or even your family can be an awkward process. This approach helps you have a structure and makes it easier for people to provide more meaningful feedback.

I remember whenever I asked for feedback in the past I often got something along the following lines, “you are doing great”, “keep up the good work” or “you are working too hard.” You see how those statements are too vague and not particularly helpful?

When you ask for help your colleagues may be hesitating saying something that may cause strain on a relationship, your boss may be too busy to stop, think and provide meaningful information.

People you ask for feedback may be just trying to get it over with as quickly as possible so they can move on with their day. Giving them 3 specific questions to answer gives them no choice but somehow to answer those questions and you can keep them accountable for their answers so they have to put at least some thought into it.

Specific and concise feedback which is easy to provide

Stop more start is a simple yet effective way for you to stay on track by obtaining specific and concise feedback from those in your life whose opinion matters to you. This is highly helpful in your career as well as personal life.

SMS process versus annual performance reviews

Many companies practice performance review on an annual basis. This is not effective because you need feedback on a more regular basis to progress as fast as you can. SMS system works well as an interim feedback mechanism because it is very focused. It structures the feedback to make it useful and concise as well as comprehensive. Plus it makes it easy for feedback to be provided since all that is required is to answer 3 simple questions, a type of task that even a small child can handle.

This technique is effective in helping you pick up problems at its inception, before they become something that can hurt you during the year-end review.

And it may be things that you don’t think will be a problem. Say you are a corporate banker managing a portfolio of 37 clients. All of those clients are medium to large companies and they all require a lot of attention. You are a one man/woman show. You have to do applications for loan analysis to recommend or not recommend if your employer should lend those clients millions of dollars, you have to build and maintain relationship, you have to handle or at least facilitate resolution of any issues your client may be facing related to their financing, investment or cash management activities with your employer and you have to help prospect new clients.

You may think your boss will appreciate you working long hours and often having to miss internal social functions so that you can serve clients better and faster. Alter all you would much rather chat to your colleagues with a glass of chilled wine in your hand vs staring into a screen of your laptop reading yet another income statement.

Wrong! Miss those social events and there is a red flag next to your name. Wait until year-end review and you may be faced with regret of “why no one told me sooner? What do you mean I am not socializing enough? I did it for the good of the company!” This could be avoided if you implement simple feedback process to get feedback on a regular basis.

This example is actually one of the issues I experienced during my days in banking.

Worse, your year end review may not even reveal some of the things your boss and colleagues want you to stop doing, start doing and do more of.  Year-end reviews are often confusing, done in a hurry just to get it over with and are not designed to provide comprehensive feedback. In fact they are more designed for employer to rank employees and determine promotions and compensation than to provide valuable feedback to help employees grow. Moreover, your boss may have 100 people he has to rank, so insufficient attention is given to providing helpful feedback. So get control over obtaining feedback when your boss is not overwhelmed with year-end reviews by asking for regular feedback throughout the year using some structured method such as SMS.

SMS feedback approach is effective outside of work environment as well

This approach is quite helpful in soliciting helpful feedback outside of work environment as well.

With divorce rate at 50% we certainly should not ignore our family life. Ask your spouse and your kids these questions every 3 months. Let them be heard. This can prevent a lot of issues down the line.

How many families fall apart because of issues that grew from small seeds? If my parents asked me SMS questions and acted on it I know I would have had a happier childhood.

I would have said:

Stop: saying that nothing in the house is mine, that the apartment is not “ours” and the food we have is not “ours” and even bed that I sleep on every night or clothes on my back is not “mine”. They used to tell me none of those things are “ours”, its “theirs”. This made me feel like a homeless person who was allowed shelter and food temporarily. Result, I felt I had no home and immigrated alone to another country after graduating.

More – I would have said, “I want you to spend time with me. Help me with subjects in school I struggle with.”

Start – I would have said, “Could we do family lunch or dinner at least once a week? It would be great if we could all be together as a family. Sometimes it feels we are just passing time in the same apartment. And help me when I am in trouble because I feel completely alone. For example, when a bully named Oleg punched me in the face in 3rd grade because my brothers broke his calculator and I did not had 7 rubles to reimburse him and I walked around with a blue eye and everyone laughed at me. I wish you would step up and protect me or at least give me advice on how to deal with that situation.” But no one ever asked. Result, I felt completely alone in the world for a very long time.

This is my example. What your kids, your spouse struggle with but don’t tell you about? Ask them, it can change the trajectory of your life.

Final thoughts

SMS feedback method is simple, effective and to the point. Try it this week with relationship that are most important to you, be it relationship with your kids, spouse, your collegues or your boss. Because if you don’t ask, they will still think those things, but you will not know and won’t be able to fix those problems. When people say knowledge is power, they are not wrong. So go get yourself some power.

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