Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Building a Feedback-Rich Culture @ Work

  • Get to know each other - Make an effort to understand colleagues as individuals. This doesn’t require a great deal of time or deep, personal disclosures — just taking a moment to ask about someone’s weekend and occasionally sharing stories of your own.
  • Talk about emotions - The ability to discuss emotions is a critical feature in any group that aspires to share effective feedback, not only because feelings are at the heart of most difficult feedback, but also because feedback inevitably generates difficult feelings. When we can talk about our embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and even anger, the culture is sufficiently safe — and robust — to handle real feedback.
  • Make it OK to say no - A risk in feedback-rich cultures is that people feel obligated to say “Of course,” when asked, “Can I give you some feedback?” The freedom to postpone such conversations when we’re not ready to have them ensures that when they do take place all participants are willing parties.
  • Offer some positive feedback…and stop there - Too often we use positive feedback to cushion the blow before delivering criticism, but that practice inevitably degrades the value of our praise and renders it hollow.
  • Start small - We miss opportunities to provide positive feedback every day because we have this idea that only big wins merit discussion. When we see any behavior we want to encourage, we should acknowledge it and express some appreciation.
  • Praise effort, not ability -  Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that praising persistent efforts, even in failed attempts, helps build resilience and determination, while praising talent and ability results in risk-aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.
  • Don’t wait for a special occasion - A mentor of mine, Vince Stehle, once told me, “Don’t build a castle; put up a thousand tents,” and that certainly applies to feedback. Don’t turn it into a complex, cumbersome process; just take a few minutes (or even a moment) and make it happen.
  • Work in public - Certain conversations are best held one-on-one, but too often we treat all feedback as a potentially embarrassing or even shameful process to be conducted under cover of darkness. When sufficient safety and balance exist, even critical feedback can be provided in larger groups. This not only allows everyone present to learn from the issues under discussion but also allows people to see how to give and receive feedback more effectively.
  • Be transparent - Everyone around us – colleagues, superiors, direct reports – should know that improving at giving and receiving feedback is an ongoing goal of ours.
  • Ask - We can’t just sit back and wait for feedback to be offered, particularly when we’re in a leadership role. If we want feedback to take root in the culture, we need to explicitly ask for it.

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