So you want to build a better feedback culture?

two people writing on paper on wooden table

We hear so much interest from organizations in how to build a resilient creative culture, one in which feedback flourishes. People assume that if they just learn how to give feedback well, a culture of feedback will magically flourish.

But not giving feedback is a symptom of a deeper cultural problem. People already have feedback to give — and everyone likes sharing their opinion — so our ability to give feedback is usually not the barrier, though giving feedback well is a growth area for most of us. If you want a culture of feedback to flourish, put your energy into receiving feedback well.

Receiving feedback graciously is the oil in your well-oiled culture machine. Giving feedback feels risky (“am I going to upset the other person?”) and establishing a history of receiving feedback well lowers the perceived risk.

Put simply, if people received feedback well, other people would gladly give it. 

So strengthen your ability to receive feedback, especially if you’re in a leadership position.

  • In your 1:1s with your direct reports, ask for feedback. Don’t give feedback in the same conversation — just ask for it. Ask for feedback in a few meetings in a row to prove that you actually want it. After all, we know that it can feel especially risky to give feedback to your boss.
  • If you manage managers, encourage them to seek feedback from their direct reports. You can model this behavior by implementing the tip above, and ensuring that your managers know this isn’t another performance review or 360. Don’t ask your managers to share the feedback they’ve received. Make it safe for them to receive feedback, too.
  • Celebrate the people who have given you feedback. In your staff meetings or all hands, publicly thank them, share the feedback and what you’re going to do with it. By modeling grace in receiving feedback, people will trust that feedback is truly celebrated and rewarded.
  • Keep rewarding people who give feedback — especially the feedback you don’t want to hear. It’s hard to speak truth to power — and it’s also the best hope you have for growing as a leader. So thank your brave team members, and then thank them again.
  • Know yourself. Learn how to manage your own patterns and pitfalls when you receive feedback so that you can better manage your reactions in situations that might challenge you.

Interested in learning more about how to receive feedback well? Come to our workshop on Mastering the Art of Feedback to hone your skills and get coaching from the pros.

Holly Thorsen
Holly Thorsen

Holly Thorsen is a Director at Cooper Professional Education and a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.

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