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Creating a Feedback Culture

Patrick Nelson, August 1, 2016

Creating a Feedback Culture

Take a minute and think of a company known for having a high-performance culture. Two companies that come to my mind right away are REI and Twitter. Both are ranked routinely as one of the best places to work and are known for having high-performing teams. What sets them apart from other companies is they both have established cultures of high levels of feedback: Twitter with their theme of open feedback from top-down, bottom-up, and peer to peer; and REI with their online company campfires that encourage feedback and lively debates amongst employees.

A culture of feedback is where everyone feels comfortable sharing feedback, both positive and constructive.

We all know that providing feedback helps others deliver stronger results because they gain greater self-awareness on how they can get better. It seems ironic, then, that many professionals I talk with get very little professional feedback on either what they are doing well, or what that can be doing better.

You can inspire a feedback culture. Here are some tips that will help you inspire candor and feedback in your environment:

  • Create an environment of safety and It is more difficult to receive developmental feedback from someone if you do not think they have your best interest in mind. You can start to build trust by investing in your work relationships. Get to know the people you work with – what their goals are, what their life is like outside of work. This will help create the foundation for you to continue to build upon when you offer positive or developmental feedback.
  • Talk about emotions. We know that is not always an easy thing to do; however, by talking about emotions we are able to drop any facade we try to carry and just get real. For example, I once had a colleague share how sad they felt after not receiving an anticipated promotion. His ability to express his emotions in a vulnerable, honest way opened the doors for greater candor in our relationship.
  • Give more praise and recognition. When people hear the word feedback, they immediately think negative. All feedback doesn’t have to be constructive. In order to grow and develop, we should be hearing more positive feedback than negative. Likewise, we should be delivering more positive than negative. By hearing more praise and recognition, psychologically we remain motivated to keep improving.
  • Give feedback that is specific to behavior. Don’t just tell someone they are doing a good job or that they need to better manage their time. Get specific with your feedback and let them know the behaviors you want them to continue or stop doing. There’s a big difference between “Hey, Marcy, you did a great job at the presentation” vs. “Hey, Marcy, I really enjoyed how you added humor to what could have been an otherwise dry presentation.” In the latter example, Marcy now knows what specifically she can do to continue delivering great presentations.
  • Be consistent and timely with your feedback. Feedback loses its effectiveness if not done in a timely manner. Don’t wait 4 months down the road to share it. 

Creating a feedback culture requires a consistent and committed effort on your part, but it will help lead to more engaged team members who feel motivated to deliver stronger performance. Make an effort today to start – give someone specific, positive and sincere recognition. Before you know it, you will be on your way to building a high performance culture that will make your environment a great place to work.

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