We all know the old school approach to feedback in the workplace. It’s usually in the form of a once-a-year review to go over everything in the past year that needs improvement.
Have you had those tense reviews in which you dread the unknown tangle of all the mistakes you’ve made during the year? Doesn’t feel good, right?
The new paradigm at work is shifting how we think of feedback.
What’s a healthy culture of feedback? And how do we create it?
There are several ways in which we can intentionally think about and practice a healthy culture of feedback as leaders in the workplace.
I speak quite a bit about this in my book, Uplifting Leaders; How to have Difficult Conversations that Motivate and Inspire and would like to pull some key points to elaborate on.
Why create a culture of feedback on your team or in your company?
I like to think of business the same way as a sports team or a performance group. In order for an athlete or performer to be the best they can possibly be, they need constant feedback. This is a totally acceptable culture in those worlds. They have coaches and trainers, and they use many resources to consistently evaluate their skill and adjust without resentment or hurt feelings because they know this is how they become the best they can.
Why should the work environment be any different? Many companies have a culture that breeds an unspoken but powerful message of ‘no feedback is best’ and ‘everyone should be left on their own in order to evaluate and improve.’
I’ve noticed in many companies, leaders go out of their way to avoid giving feedback, thereby creating a culture where employees know they can push the limits of low standards and the leaders will work around their faults until they absolutely must fire them. It’s incredibly strange that we view the workplace in such a different light than we view many other aspects of our lives when it comes to feedback and improvement.
What if we start creating workplace cultures in which feedback is given and received in such a healthy, motivating way and with a frequency that encourages actual change so that the company and employees are able to thrive?!
How to start creating this culture
KNOW YOUR TEAM
Not all people are the same. The best coaches know they can’t give feedback in the same way to every athlete or performer. As a leadership coach, I take into account the personality of who I’m coaching and adjust how I speak to them and the questions I ask them.
You, as a leader, should do the same for your team. It takes intention to study the personalities of your team and strategize a communication strategy that works best for them. There are many different tools available to gain perspective on your team in an efficient way.
You can ask them to take personality tests. I’ve found this to be very helpful in my own coaching practice. This is not about putting your employees in “labeled boxes”, but rather, just a tool to understand how they process and view the world.
I use Cloverleaf which has a variety of personality tests as part of their package. You and your employees take the tests, then they send you tips on how to motivate and relate to each other in a healthy way. I’ve received really great feedback from clients who use it!
Communicate with your team. Ask them how often they’d like check-ins. How they feel about feedback. And discuss why you’d like to share feedback. Allow them to understand your mindset and create buy-in for the culture of feedback you want to implement.
BE INTENTIONAL WITH HOW YOU GIVE FEEDBACK
If you want to create a culture in which the team seeks feedback and appreciates it, you need to cultivate an uplifting and intentional way to give it.
Think about the moments you tend to give feedback. Are you giving feedback privately or publicly? A lot of personalities hate being given constructive feedback publicly. Try to avoid this and if it needs to happen in a group environment, spin it as positively as you can. Try asking a question instead of making a statement. “What would you do differently next time?” or “I’ve been in that position, and I found that this works best…… How do you think that would work for you?”
Are you asking open or closed type questions? Try to avoid generic, open-ended questions like, “How’s it going?” and instead, ask very specific questions such as, “What would you focus on if you were in my position?”
Try to avoid kitchen sink conversations in reviews. Avoid bringing every mistake or area of growth into one conversation. This is too overwhelming and deflating to produce constructive and productive results and, in my experience, this tends to break trust. The employee is left with the feeling of wondering what you are keeping in and not telling him/her on a regular basis. By saying what needs to be said in a healthy way on a consistent basis, it is not overwhelming, and the employee trusts you to be transparent, respectful and direct.
Don’t just give critical feedback but be intentional about giving encouragement and pointing out what employees are doing well!
Think about these three questions before giving feedback:
1. Is it True? Think about what you know to be true and whatever you don’t know for sure, become curious about. Do not use hyperbole as in “you always” or “you never.” This will create a defensive posture and it is very likely an untrue statement.
2. Is it Kind? Use a kind, compassionate and grace-filled tone. Most people don’t respond to condescending or rude feedback. If your intention is to motivate your team to want to give their best, treat them with respect and dignity.
3. Is it Necessary? Ask yourself this before speaking. Is this constructive feedback to help their performance in the future or is it petty and not very impactful? We certainly don’t want to hold onto things to say later, but if it is not completely necessary for growth, let it go.
CREATE A CULTURE OF FEEDBACK BY SETTING THE EXAMPLE
Think about how you receive feedback and if there’s any area of growth, make sure to tend to that first. You can’t ask your team to do something you aren’t willing to.
In my online leadership course, I talk about the fact that
we can receive feedback and grow from absolutely anyone. Don’t seek to learn
from only those in a higher role than you. Be curious and learn from every
position on your team and in your company.
If you want to be the best that you can, wouldn’t this be your posture? If you embody this way of being, your team will follow your example. Seek to learn, be curious, and listen fully to everyone and you will create a culture of feedback that is uplifting, encouraging and thriving!
Creating a culture of constant feedback allows all to be continuously learning and course correcting. If everyone on the team is giving positive and critical feedback in real time, this will create a training environment in which the reasonable behavior is to grow and improve daily. Talk about a thriving company culture that reaches goals and breaks records!
I've spent years studying and developing communication skills specifically for leadership and the workplace. Conflict prevention and resolution is fundamental in leadership development and I coach leaders to develop key skills and tools to help their team excel.
If you'd like to develop these skills, there's several ways I can help!
> Read my book "Uplifting Leaders! How to have difficult conversations that motivate and inspire". This is a great first step as this book is packed with real life examples from my years of experience along with key tips and tricks to navigating difficult conversations in the workplace.
> Schedule some one-on-one coaching with me to develop a specific plan for you to reach your maximum potential.
> Bring me into your team to assist with team communication strategies. This looks like group coaching with individual coaching as needed.
> Sign up for one of my online development courses. These courses are designed for employees and leaders to develop key skills at their own pace.
> Schedule a one day or multi-day workshop for your company to present key ideas that will help the leadership team grow in their skills!
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