5 things that slowly but surely destroy your feedback culture

Not all habits are good when trying to establish a healthy feedback culture. Luckily, the bad habits can be avoided once we can identify them, and once we have the courage to challenge them. That’s why we’ve written this article, to help you stop poisoning your feedback culture.

But wait a minute. You may be confused. You may be thinking: ”Why do we even need a healthy feedback culture?”. There are many reasons why, and you can read more about those here.

1) You’re punishing people for their mistakes

You would never do something like that, would you? Surprisingly, most of us do, even though we know it’s wrong. The magic of feedback happens when we use small, everyday experiences as an opportunity to give each other feedback and learn something new. If your employees are too scared to take risks, take action and take initiative because they fear failure – and worse yet, being punished for their failures – the improvements you make will be miniscule. Therefore, it’s important to know the difference between praising someone for their efforts and praising someone for their results. Failure is not always the result of poor effort. Make sure to stay curious and open-minded.

2) Feedback is only an annual conversation

If you want your feedback to thrive and your culture to be felt, it has to be visible. If we save all our feedback for the annual performance review, the feedback culture is not thriving. Try to improve your ”Feedback Opportunity Spotting”. It’s all about spotting the situations, meetings or steps of a process where feedback can improve our daily work. However, be careful not to overdo it – the feedback sessions have to be worthwhile and valuable to everyone involved.

3) You’re only giving feedback to change behavior

A common misconception about feedback is that feedback is only useful when something has to change. This may be because we often talk about constructive criticism. However, this is problematic for the feedback culture. Join us on this train of thought: Classical conditioning. Pavlovs dogs. Bell leads to food = The dog likes the bell. The same (negative) effect can be created around feedback if the phrase ”I have some feedback for you” starts to sound like ”I’ve noticed your mistakes, here’s what you should do instead”. Then who would even want feedback at all? It doesn’t have to be like that, though. Remember that feedback can often be used to acknowledge behavior and highlight the strengths of your employees. The mental connection we want, is that feedback leads to good experiences, not bad ones.

4) The feedback only flows downwards from the manager to the employee

From the first day you step into the office as the manager, you’re provided with a power, but not necessarily with an endless knowledge or a complete set of skills. The idea that useful perspectives and the right to contribute to the growth of the team only belongs to the manager is another horrible misconception. In fact, studies show that the most efficient leaders are those who ask for the most feedback. In many cases, the leader is not in close daily contact with all of their employees, which means that the leader may have a lack of experiences and observations from which to give feedback. Another solution could be to establish feedback expectations among employees who work closely together. Working closely together gives employees many great opportunities to provide feedback to each other.

5) You’re telling yourself that you’re way too busy to provide feedback

This is simply not true. You do have the time. Giving feedback only requires the same amount of time as grabbing your next cup of coffee. Give me a call, and I’ll tell you how it’s done.

It’s easier said than done to establish good feedback behaviors

We’re not saying it’s easy to create a healthy feedback culture, because this is about real, human emotions and relationships. It’s important to respect this perspective. Here we talk about what keeps us from participating in feedback conversations with our colleagues. Maybe you aren’t doing any of these five things, but you still struggle to create the thriving and healthy feedback culture of your dreams?

What should we do instead?

Healthy feedback cultures are built brick by brick. You will encounter flaws and inadequate solutions on the way, but don’t let this stop you. One thing to consider is whether your culture supports the use of feedback. We use the 5 pillars of a healthy feedback culture to evaluate this. Maybe this could be your starting point too?

Two things are for sure: We’re here for you, and we’re rooting for you! 

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