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How To Create A Culture Of Feedback At Work

This article was based on episode 156 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. The first five members to request it get a free copy of Karen’s book Setting the Stage: A Guide to Preparing for any Feedback Conversation. Become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.


Despite knowing the value of giving consistent, constructive feedback, many managers still feel (understandably!) uncomfortable about it. We’re afraid our colleagues will take it personally and we worry that the conversation will become awkward and tense. But we can avoid this fear and discomfort by creating a culture of feedback that benefits everyone.


Karen Weeks is the Senior Vice President of People at Ordergroove as well as a career coach, award-winning culture advisor, speaker, and author. She shares with me concrete ways to create a culture of feedback giving and receiving that leaves everyone (including the managers!) feeling good.


MAKE FEEDBACK PART OF YOUR ROUTINE


When only shared occasionally, feedback can feel like “scolding” or become something to be feared. To avoid this, build opportunities for feedback into your work systems. Create set times per week or month where you both give and receive feedback. By establishing a regular routine of feedback, you build trust and set expectations that feedback is important and normal. This reinforces the importance of learning and fosters ongoing personal development.


CONSIDER THE PERSON


Before giving feedback of any kind, it’s important to consider the person receiving the feedback. Often, feedback is more meaningful when it’s tied to our values and goals. In addition, understanding the person’s style and preferences can help you tailor the message or delivery in a way that makes it most likely the person will receive it well. For example, if a team member is a Myers Briggs Feeler can help you prepare for a potentially emotional reaction. The person may also be relationship-centered, believing that rule or standards should be adjusted to accommodate individual circumstances. On the other end of the spectrum, a Myers Briggs Thinking may respond analytically, wanting much more data or rationale for your remarks.


GATHER DATA


Now that you’ve considered who will be receiving the feedback, it’s time to gather all the data you can about the situation or questionable behavior.


Ask yourself: Is this new behavior or a pattern of behavior? Have you addressed it before? What’s the impact of this behavior or situation on others?


It can be helpful to gather additional data by asking other members of your team what they’ve noticed. Did they see a similar pattern of behavior from the team member? Assure them that you are simply trying to understand the situation more fully so that you can address it appropriately. The information is not intended to punish the team member.


GET IN THE RIGHT MINDSET


Simply knowing a feedback conversation is coming can cause anxiety for both us and the recipient. To help yourself enter the conversion in a prepared state of mind, remind yourself that giving feedback is not just your job, but truly a gift to the other person. Without feedback, they would miss out on opportunities to learn, grow, and advance.


To help the other person prepare, let the know you want to speak with them on a general topic. Then kick off the conversation by saying something like, “I want to give you some feedback and I expect it will be hard to hear. But I’m giving you this feedback because I believe feedback is designed to help you improve and be even better going forward.” A simple acknowledgement that this may be hard to hear and that it’s coming from a place of deep care can reduce the level of tension and open the person to hearing the feedback.


LEAD WITH QUESTIONS


During the meeting itself, bring up the situation and get your teammate's perception of it. Ask questions to help you understand their perspective of the situation as well as determine if they are aware of the issue. While it’s hard, try not to enter the conversation with assumptions; have your data but lead with questions for an open-ended, problem-solving conversation. This also gives them space to acknowledge their own mistakes or weaknesses without you having to bring it up.


When it comes time to share your perspective, be clear on the expectations and what you noticed went wrong. If the behavior is new, inquire as to what might be causing this change. If it’s ongoing, ask why this continues to be problematic despite prior efforts to address it.


OFFER TRAINING AND SUPPORT


Rather than just pointing out what the employee could do better, offer them guidance in how to

get there. Maybe they need training or additional practice. Explore options for how this person can access the support resources or opportunities they need in order to improve.


It’s always helpful to recognize that we may also be playing a role in their challenges. Ask them, Is there anything I can do differently to make this easier or better for you? What roadblocks can I help remove? By acknowledging that we’re not perfect and taking responsibility for our role in the issue, if we had one, we’re role-modeling as well as solving the issue in a holistic way.


ROLE MODEL RECEIVING FEEDBACK


The best leaders are also vulnerable and transparent. Take the opportunity at each feedback meeting to ask what you could do better. Offer examples of when you made mistakes and what you’re trying to improve. This further reinforces the desired culture in which giving feedback is natural and everyone deserves to receive constructive feedback.


In addition to asking for feedback, managers can role-model how to receive difficult feedback. When you stay calm, listen and seek understanding, and avoid defensiveness or blame, you are showing your colleagues how to de-escalate a potential conflict.


Feedback is the bread and butter of company growth. No matter how dedicated an employee is, everyone needs help improving in some area of their work performance. Receiving an outside perspective from a manager or colleague has been proven to be valuable. By creating a routine of feedback, not only are we helping our colleagues, we’re helping ourselves. The more we give feedback the faster we become accustomed to it. The more we receive feedback, the easier it becomes to hear constructive criticism. This enables us to give and receive feedback in a way that feels positive and supportive. Giving or receiving feedback doesn’t have to be scary, for managers or their teammates. If we do it right, we may even look forward to it!


KEEP UP WITH KAREN


The first five members to request it get a free copy of Karen’s book Setting the Stage: A Guide to Preparing for any Feedback Conversation. Become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase an individual episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.


This article was based on episode 156 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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