09 Jan Creating a Feedback Culture – Providing Opportunities

 

If you were asked to describe the feedback culture of your organisation, what would you say and why? What, if anything, could be better?

I have lost count of the times a client has said “Please cover feedback on your workshop as we want to create a feedback culture”. Of course, this is an admirable aspiration and something to which we should all aspire, but why does creating this culture seem to be so difficult?

In this blog, I will explore why it can seem difficult and what you can do to create a culture where feedback really is ‘the way we do things round here’

One of the main barriers to creating a feedback culture is fear: we don’t know how people will react. They may be embarrassed if we tell them about the good stuff and upset if we tell them about the not so good. Either way, by not giving feedback, we are denying people an opportunity to reinforce or remedy their behaviour (and who wants to be accused of that?).

My plea is that you hold the belief that a feedback culture is one where people are provided with opportunities, every day. Let’s face it, lots of people want to be given opportunities to grow and develop, as well as to be recognised and appreciated for what they do.

Benefits

I have found that, in those organisations where a feedback culture exists, people are more motivated as they have clarity about what’s expected of them and know how they’re doing, resulting in a climate of trust and understanding. Additionally, there is a greater culture of innovation and creativity as the old adage ’there’s no failure, only feedback’ gives people permission to experiment and, through feedback, learn.

There are three steps which will help you develop a feedback culture:

1. Remember there's a Positive Intention

To help overcome the fear of not knowing how people will react to the feedback, we all need to believe that  there is a Positive Intention behind the feedback. The positive intention is to help someone remedy or repeat their behaviour. Holding this belief enables us to feel more confident and justified in providing the information (as that is what feedback is) and allows the recipient of the feedback to receive it in the spirit in which it is intended (provided, of course, that they also hold this belief).

Where this belief is held (and felt), it gives people permission to give feedback, to anyone, at any time, so you can move on to the next step….

2. Talk about it

Another barrier to creating a feedback culture is that people don’t know what it means and why it’s important: so talk about it! Talking about what it means, what it looks like, as well as the benefits to individuals and the organisation, provides clarity and buy-in.  Make it a topic on everyone’s agenda. Ask yourselves the question what needs to happen to allow the giving and receiving of feedback to be part of how we work with each other?’. Involve, and ask, people in deciding how to create the culture. Perhaps also ask the question ‘what’s going to stop us from creating this culture’ and, importantly, ‘how do we overcome these barriers/challenges?’.

You can talk about this practically anywhere, at any time: in team meetings, one to ones, at the coffee machine, over lunch, etc. so there’s no excuse not to!

3. Live it

Having talked about it, the next step is to live it. In other words, be a role model – to coin a well known phrase – Just Do It. Find opportunities to give feedback to others and also to ask for it. Whenever we interact with others, there’s an opportunity to find out about the impact we had (whether it was helpful or not). Make the following two questions part of your repertoire when closing down interactions with others:

What have I done that’s been helpful?

What could I do differently?

This will demonstrate a real willingness on your part to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.

 

Another way to live it is to make it part of your meetings’ practice. As part of the closing routine (culture), ask participants to comment on the following:

How satisfied are you with the outcome of the meeting?

How satisfied are you with the process we used to achieve that?

What should we do more of/differently in our next meeting?

That way, you will get different perspectives which provide (more) opportunities to talk about what went well and what could be done to be even more effective and efficient. If this becomes part of the meetings’ culture, participants will become more proactive at looking for opportunities to improve meetings.

Following these three steps will help you and your colleagues to develop a feedback culture. Of course, this doesn't just happen overnight; you need to ensure that these three steps become a habit (again, culture) and that you integrate them into your day to day activities.

So, in what other ways could you contribute to the creation of this culture? Ask your colleagues; I bet they’ll have some great ideas too.

Finally, if you’re thinking how do I structure my feedback in a way that’s clear and helpful?’, a previous blog (Giving Feedback: how to ensure it's acted on) describes the BIR structure which helps you to do exactly that.

 

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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