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Working Habits, Self Evals, and Finding Connection

Life at Reclaim has been busy these last few months. Consider this the first of a couple Summer “Check In” posts. You can also read previous summer reflection posts if you’d like!

Performance Reviews Self Evals

One of my priorities as a leader is to make sure the team is setting aside time to regularly reflect on their work & happiness/stress levels. I meet regularly with folks throughout the year to touch base on their professional milestones and short/long term goals, but having at least one “formal” review each year helps solidify these individual paths forward. In the past, performance reviews have fallen on an employee’s work anniversary and dispersed throughout the year. This summer, we moved all reviews to the month of June. This update, along with changing these reviews to be self evaluations, worked well for several reasons:

  • Having the team fill out self evals before we met one-on-one allowed me to get a real sense of their thoughts/ideas/concerns ahead of time so I wasn’t walking into conversations blind.
  • By bringing the reviews together, I effectively blocked out two weeks on my calendar where I didn’t take on outside work or projects. I knew that everyone would put a lot of time and consideration into their self-evaluation beforehand, and they deserved the same time from me to prep & reflect beforehand as well. This also gave me flexibility to let meetings run over and make sure everyone had the time they needed because I wasn’t competing with other work.
  • It was easier to track larger patterns. How many people felt stressed? How many were looking for more ways to connect as a virtual team?

Self Eval Questions

I’ve spent the last few years trying to perfect a consolidated list of questions that work best for the Reclaim team. I’m aware that no list will ever perfectly capture all scenarios or external factors, but these get close!

1. Which personal goals or milestones have you met in this review period? What project or experience are you most proud of?
2. Which goals have fallen short in this review period? Why do you think that is?
3. How were you able to contribute to larger team and company-wide goals?
4. What personal goals, projects, or milestones would you like to focus on in the 6-12 months? How can your manager, team, and Reclaim has a whole best support you to meet these goals?

The first 4 questions provide an opportunity to reflect on both personal and team goals at Reclaim Hosting. As a small team, the work we do is highly collaborative. I want to make sure everyone has the space to not only better themselves, but work towards something larger than themselves as well. And if things aren’t working, let’s figure out why.

5. What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What drives you?
6. What is the most challenging part of your job? Why?
7. What skills do you have that you believe we could use more effectively?

Questions 5-7 help outline the most enjoyed & hardest parts of a position. These are the details that can ultimately make or break a working experience. The “Highs & Lows” title could likely change in future, as challenges can be a good thing. But are these challenges healthy? Or do they lead to dread, anxiety, etc.?

Story time: early on in my time at Reclaim, we did an exercise as a team and I had the space to mention that I actually hate doing site migrations. Haha! It wasn’t some large secret that I was harboring, and I hadn’t put too much thought into it before that exercise, but it was a relief to ultimately admit it. (The pressure of dealing with someone else’s site content like that, no matter how simple, is not something I enjoy.) In the same conversation, I found out that one of my colleagues actually loved them, and felt super accomplished after finishing a complex migration. We were able to tweak how that work was handled and lean on each other’s strengths (ahem, and weaknesses). It was an insignificant moment for the team and an easy change to make at the time. That said, I felt acknowledged and respected, and it’s still something I think about often. My hope is that everyone can find those moments at Reclaim.

8. Are there any team dynamics or challenges that prevent you from doing your best work?
9. What is your stress level at Reclaim? Please leave supporting comments in the note section. (1 = very low, 5= moderate, 10 = very high)
10. If Reclaim were to add in more hangout time, what might you want to see?
Bonus: Is there anything else you want to share in this review?

The final questions are asked with personal happiness and Reclaim culture in mind. Simply put, I want folks to love working at Reclaim. A lot of things can go unseen as a distributed team (I’ve spoken about this at length in other posts) so I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to think about those “in between” factors, beyond the work itself.

Which leads me to my next point…

Virtual working & building out time for connection

In conjunction with our OER22 conference presentation on Building Connections with Virtual teams, the lovely Maren Deepwell and I have jumped on the radio a handful of times to talk about leading virtual teams, working remotely, and everything in between. I finally got ahold of those recordings, and you can listen to some of our chats below:

April 13, 2022

May 17, 2022

Though we’re all busy, slowing down to as a team is important. I tend to roll my eyes at some of the “forced fun” activities circulating out there, but what I really mean is just making sure there’s time & space set aside every so often for basic connection, and not necessarily about work. The more we are able to connect as humans, the more empathetic and perceptive we’ll be as a team (or at least that’s the hope). This past week I added a Virtual Working Hour to the calendar that had no agenda & was completely optional to attend. Almost everyone showed up at one point or another to say hello, work alongside each other, and chat about things like fancy keyboards, airport/travel experiences, and the 9 Enneagram Types. It was fun! Other ideas we may try include Music Mondays (where everyone takes turn driving the Reclaim Radio playlist), Slack #watercooler huddles, virtual escape rooms, and more. And I just may take inspiration from Maren for a Team Chat & Bake. :) I’ll also need to begin thinking about our annual team trip here soon, too!

Personal Working Habits & Professional Development

As I continue to think about working habits for the team, it has led to a surprising amount of reflection about my own personal working habits. When I encourage the team to have work/life balance, or to be protective of their professional development time, how can I actually mean those things if I’m not holding myself to the same standards? In other words, I have to practice what I preach. I just hit my 7 year anniversary with Reclaim Hosting, and a lot of the work I do as a manager is focused on lifting up others (and rightly so). This does mean, however, that it can be dangerously easy to go through a busy spell and pop up a few months later without having made any progress on my personal goals. Slowing down to make time for personal growth is important, and will ultimately make me a better manager, I’m sure of it. But it has certainly been a journey to find the balance here.

To that end, and for other personal reasons, I’ve taken Friday’s off this summer. That seems like such a big sentence, but in practice it still feels quite new. This has been an incredibly helpful step for the above reflection, and one I’m super grateful to be able to take. When I inevitably do begin working Fridays again, I look forward to treating that day as “bonus” time for all these healthy habits I’m building. ;) I also look forward to updating this space & keeping myself accountable for continued learning and professional development.

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