What would help you work with greater clarity and efficiency to serve our users and customers?
Where should we remove speed bumps to get to better results faster?
How do we eliminate waste and stay entrepreneurial and focused as we grow?
These questions are more than a great example of how organizations can benefit from employee feedback. They also teach a lesson in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions. Let’s break down what makes these questions so great, and what you and your business can learn from them.
As individuals, we’re emotionally attached to our work. Sure, we all say we want to grow and improve, but when people actually tell us how, we take things personally. “How dare they criticize me!” we think to ourselves.
We see similar problems on the organizational level. Company leaders say they value transparency and honesty, but most are lying. In many cases, companies are content to simply do things the way they’ve always done them, because that’s the path of least resistance.
At first glance, Pichai’s questions don’t even look like an invitation for criticism. They are framed simply as “working together” to find areas for improvement. This is helpful because all organizations, and we too, have blind spots. We have processes and habits that need changing.
However, by setting the tone as constructive instead of critical, Pichai helps put everyone on the same team, in pursuit of a single goal. The idea isn’t to point fingers or place blame; the intent is to improve.
In the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, co-authors Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone advise against using vague questions like “Do you have any feedback on how we can improve?”
Instead, you need to narrow your focus. For example, after a presentation, an employee might ask a teammate, manager, or even a direct report to name one thing they could have done to make that presentation better.
Pichai’s questions use constraints to do the same thing for Google employees. The questions are not just about how to do better, which employees could quickly answer with their pet peeves. Rather, they are constructed in a way that invites careful, thoughtful responses–the kind that will deliver concrete information that can help inform real-world change.
Pichai’s questions employ the Ikea effect, not only because they promote solution-oriented thinking, but because they offer employees the chance to have a hand in crafting those solutions. And the same way customers place value on Ikea furniture they build themselves, Google employees will buy more into solutions they actually helped create.