Listen up: Six steps towards a culture of feedback

Have you ever waited for questions at the end of a presentation or briefing, only to hear a resounding silence? Or perhaps you sent out a survey after an event and only received a small number of responses?  

We’ve all been there – asking for feedback and hitting a proverbial brick wall. The asking part is easy, but actually getting it? That’s another story.

Yet when you are part of a feedback culture, it’s hard to imagine a world where people don’t automatically (and constructively) let you know what they think.  

Years ago, I worked for a professional services firm where it was standard practice to ask for feedback at the end of every project and event.  

This was so ingrained within the organisation that a colleague admitted she had been surprised not to be asked for feedback by the clown she had hired for her daughter’s sixth birthday party!  

This was before online reviews and feedback sites were commonly used, and she was sufficiently self-aware to realise that this was probably expecting a bit too much. Still, it goes to show the impact that a strong workplace culture can have on behaviour.

And when it comes to feedback, if you really do want people to speak up, culture is vital.

If you’re serious about building a culture that embraces feedback, here are six things you can do to make a start:

  1. Provide training: It’s not a given that everyone will know how to, or feel comfortable providing feedback. But practice makes perfect, and with support and the right resources – development is possible
  2. Create a safe space: People need to feel comfortable sharing their views and receiving feedback themselves. This requires trust and respect from all parties involved. You can’t force feedback, and you certainly don’t want a situation where people fear the consequences of providing a less than stellar review
  3. Build it into your daily work: The more often it happens, the more routine feedback will become and the more natural it will seem.  Keep an eye out for opportunities to embed this practice across the whole of the workforce
  4. Mix it up: Try different ways of asking for feedback. Some may work well, some less so. But the more options you have at your disposal, the more likely that at least some will stick (and don’t forget to make it easy for people – having the right tools for the job can make all the difference)
  5. Don’t ignore the bad stuff: Feedback isn’t always positive, but if you ignore the bad stuff, you risk alienating your employees and running into problems further down the line. It’s all about balance
  6. Lead by example:  Make sure that your business leaders are setting clear expectations and embodying the culture they want to create. This means showing that they are asking for feedback, listening to it, and where appropriate – making decisions based on it

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