When it comes to feedback, Cambridge-based software engineer Jeff Gaston wishes real life was a little more like video games.
“They give fast, clear feedback about your performance,” he says. “If I could compute a score for how my life is going, I think it would be helpful to keep me focused on impactful things.” This idea inspired Jeff to develop a mobile app for himself that measures his efficiency in completing daily tasks. These efficiency estimates are shared in graphs with encouraging words and helpful suggestions for the future. Through using this little app he discovered that a single instance of feedback in his app gave him about 60 minutes of motivation.
Jeff took that learning and started offering something similar to his coworkers to motivate them: sharing same-day, meaningful feedback. At the end of every work day, he identifies his favorite thing that happened since the previous day and sends a thank you email to the person responsible. He calls this practice “mini kudos.”
For example, Jeff’s team recently noticed some of their builds were getting slower. Ivan Gavrilovic, who works on an adjacent team, looked into it. He reviewed performance metrics, identified potential causes, and reached out to other Googlers who could help come up with solutions to fix it. “It probably would have taken me a while to identify what was going on,” Jeff says. “So I was super happy for the help and emailed Ivan my mini kudos for that day.”
Ivan was grateful for the message. “Jeff’s email really made my day,” he says. “I get satisfaction from helping others, across locations and teams, but this sign of appreciation makes it even better.”
Over the past few years, Jeff has sent these emails to fellow Googlers for suggesting improvements to his code, sharing entertaining stories, listening, giving him the opportunity to be helpful, sharing impactful information, and much more. These kudos are even more motivating as teams work from home, and by Jeff’s estimates each mini kudos email provides a short-term boost of motivation.
Jeff hopes sending these emails makes his teammates happier and keeps them informed about what behaviors are helpful to him. “I also hope it helps people find meaning and motivation in their work,” he says. “And that it inspires others to send daily kudos! If each person sends an average of one kudos per day, then each person should receive an average of one kudos per day too. Doesn’t that sound nice?”