For People Leaders: Using Start-Stop-Continue for Effective Feedback from Your Team
For several years, I have used a simple feedback process with multiple teams as a way to encourage meaningful conversations that lead to impactful results. The approach is called Start-Stop-Continue (S-S-C). This method enables a focus on improvements, drives prioritization, creates alignment and supports effective strategies for teamwork and projects. But what I appreciate most about it, is the ability to obtain direct, candid feedback from my teams on my leadership performance and as a collective group, what they need from me to support their success. When successfully completed, the results from S-S-C will help your growth as a leader and support your efforts of building a stronger, more effective team.
From a leader’s perspective, the primary goal of S-S-C for personal feedback is to obtain a clear understanding of what your team needs from you now (Start), determine what is no longer working for them (Stop) and understand what continues to work for them or that they appreciate (Continue). The feedback should be a representation of your entire team’s needs and indicate the prioritization that they require from you. You will find that when you repeat the S-S-C feedback with your team, their needs will change over time. This can be the result of altered team dynamics or what is happening in your department, company or even industry. For this reason, I suggest that you conduct the exercise at least once per year or when there are major changes or projects that impact your teams.
The key to an effective S-S-C for your personal feedback is to facilitate anonymity. This is achieved by asking your team to elect a representative(s) who is responsible for the confidential maintenance and submission of the S-S-C template and will provide you with additional clarity (if required) from the feedback.
How to Successfully Execute S-S-C Feedback:
1. Establish your “why
Share your “why” with your team. Why are you requesting their feedback? Be honest about your motives.
2. Clarify your intentions
Determine and share with your team what you intend to do with the feedback or how you plan on using it.
3. Provide clear guidelines
- Explain why the team needs to elect a representative and what their responsibilities will entail
- Reassure your team that all content discussed and details on the template will be kept confidential for and within your team(s) and only used for the purpose of your leadership feedback (unless otherwise agreed upon by everyone)
- Reinforce that emotional Intelligence EQ/EI is to be used by everyone at all times
- Determine the start and finish dates of the exercise
- Affirm the importance of giving honest feedback and that it should reflect the majority of the team
- Request that they identify any priorities or urgent needs
4. Decide on the S-S-C template and how they will create and submit it
There are a variety of ways your team(s) may choose to discuss and complete the template. On some occasions, my teams chose to meet together to discuss and complete it, while other times they simply posted a protected document on a shared drive, took turns adding their personal notes and then the representative extracted the details and discussed the contents accordingly. When completion time was restricted, another team chose to each email the representatives their individual feedback prior to a team meeting during which they would align and prioritize.
The template itself must have the following three sections with leading questions:
- Start – What do you need for me to start doing/do more of?
- Stop – What do you want me to stop doing or minimize?
- Continue – What do you want to ensure I continue to do/enjoy doing as a team?
As part of the process, I would only receive the final template from the team representative via email or protected on a shared drive. If I had questions or required details, I would reach out to the representatives directly prior to the next step (do not attempt to speak to others from your team for insight).
Here are some personal examples of what I‘ve received from some of my teams:
Start: Providing opportunities for cross-functional team training. Enable more frequent remote working opportunities.
Stop: Accepting incomplete templates from business partners.
Continue: Team lunch meetings and outings. Awarding and publicly recognizing their work at Divisional and Team Meetings
5. Have a S-S-C results meeting to review your responses and next steps
At your S-S-C results meeting, you should provide specific, measurable and honest responses about what you are able to take action on and when they can expect to see the changes. Be open to their questions and reactions to your proposed solutions and timelines.
Talent retention and team engagement is important to the success of your company and as a successful leader, anything you can do to keep your top talent is critical. This S-S-C exercise will strengthen the trust you have within your team, provide growth for you as a leader and foster a stronger connection as well as improve your team’s engagement.