10 Tips for Improving Your Feedback Culture  

Johannes Benz Last updated 22.10.2020
7 Min.
Improve feedback culture
Last updated 22.10.2020

Feedback goes a long way and everyone knows it's there. Nevertheless, it is far too often misapplied. Anyone who has ever worked in a real feedback culture knows about the transformative effect. In the following article I will give you 10 tips on how you and your team can improve your feedback culture.

Somehow, everyone has heard feedback before and perhaps also given or received it. I myself came into contact with a real feedback culture for the first time in my student organization AIESEC. For me it was an enlightenment. Open and honest feedback has helped me the most out of all personal and professional trainings.

At RAIDBOXES, feedback has become an integral part of the corporate culture. In the following article I will give you ten tips on how you can further improve your feedback culture.

Why feedback?

Feedback is a mandatory event in many companies. Once a year comes the evaluation meeting, at least if the supervisor has nothing more important to do. Used correctly, a feedback culture brings the following advantages:

  • Personal conflicts can be solved faster and more effectively
  • Aggression is reduced in the feedback giver before it escalates
  • The feedback recipient gets to know his strengths and weaknesses much better
  • The feedback receiver gets his "blind spot" pointed out(Johari window)
Johari windows
The so-called "blind spot" is the area that others are aware of, but of which you are not aware yourself.

Feedback tip #1: Take notes beforehand

This is often neglected or considered unnecessary. Of course, you can spontaneously give a person some feedback points. Especially if you actually just want to get rid of your criticism.

For appropriate and balanced feedback, however, you should take at least ten minutes and note down both positive aspects and those that need improvement. You will be amazed at what you can come up with.

Feedback tip #2: The power burger

The most important aspect of giving feedback is the structure and manner in which it is given. Famous here is the power burger.

Feedback Power Burger
A well-known feedback method is the "power burger", also known as the "sandwich strategy".

With a burger, first there are the burger buns that encase the meat (the criticism). At the beginning you should tell the addressee of your feedback what you appreciate about him and which positive aspects should be emphasized in him. This first introduction serves to open the other person's mind and make them feel more comfortable with the feedback that follows.

Especially if you yourself are upset for some reason and focused a lot on negative aspects, remember: there are always positive aspects to a person. If you can't think of any points off the top of your head, you should sit down and think about them.

Now comes the criticism, i.e. the meat in the feedback burger. The following two tips will give you even more precise advice on how best to formulate it.

Last but not least, finish with something positive. This is the last burger bun and rounds out the conversation. Both sites leave the conversation feeling better. Example:

"Nevertheless, I am very happy to have you as a team member and I am and I'm very confident that you'll do very well here."

Feedback tip #3: Criticism always from the first person perspective

With feedback, you only share your own subjective perspective with someone. Here there is no objective truth per se, but at most intersubjectivity (several people perceive the same facts).

Therefore, it is very important that criticism is formulated from the first person perspective. Especially if you have not yet given feedback frequently, this is not at all self-evident. In our everyday life, we usually communicate in the "you" form.

"You're lazy." (You-perspective)

"It seems to me that you could increase your workload." (first person perspective)

Formulations from the first-person perspective often contain the following phrases:

"I perceive this ..."
"From my perspective..."
"It seems to me that...!"
"I feel..."
"It seems to me that..."

If your counterpart starts to argue with you, it is a good indication that you have slipped into the "you" perspective. Especially "you" phrases are often taken as an attack.

Feedback Tip #4: Give Constructive Suggestions

Telling the other person what you don't like is a first step. However, this should be followed by a concrete indication of what you would like to see improved. Only then can the feedback recipient really change something and meet your expectations in the future.

Example, "I would like you to be in the office at least from 9am to 6pm."

Feedback tip #5: Ask for the other perspective

Discussions should be avoided at all costs in your feedback. They have no place in a feedback conversation, because the feedback giver only shares his subjective perception.

Still, the following question makes sense at the end of a conversation:

"What do you think?"

Hereby you give your counterpart the opportunity to share his perspective. In the best case - and this happens quite often - he sees it the same way. If the feedback recipient disagrees, that's perfectly fine. It's up to you to respect their perception.

give feedback
The feedback receiver has three possibilities to deal with feedback:
1. adjust communication

From his point of view, the feedback may be wrong. For him, it may mean that he needs to improve certain aspects of his communication in order to create a different perception in the other person.

The feedback taker, for example, comes to the office every morning at seven o'clock, but leaves between 4:30 and 5:00 o'clock. The feedback provider always comes to the office at nine o'clock. In order to avoid misunderstandings, the feedback receiver could now make sure to clearly communicate that he is often in the office very early. An example of an appropriate response:

"I can understand why that impression was created and I will be mindful of that, to communicate more clearly that I am, in fact, already working a lot more."

2. Ancept and initiate improvement

Under certain circumstances, the feedback recipient shares the criticism. He adjusts his behaviour accordingly in order to improve his performance in the future.

"I can understand that a heavier workload is being demanded here and I'll be getting more involved soon."

3. do not adapt perception and behaviour

The feedback recipient does notshare the criticism and does not want to adjust his behavior further. This is also legitimate, but can have negative consequences in the long run.

"From my point of view, I achieve very good results in a short period of time and therefore consider my workload is appropriate."

Feedback tip #6: Ask for feedback yourself

How do you establish a proper feedback culture in the company? A culture where colleagues also give feedback to each other and it's not always the boss who criticises his employees.  

Since we use RAIDBOXES Holacracy it made sense to set aside a slot at the monthly governance meetings for feedback discussions. However, this has not led to more feedback.

The goal should be that everyone has both given and received feedback. Preferably several times and on their own initiative.

To get a real feedback culture going, the following are recommended:

  • Also as a boss ask the employees for their feedback questions. The feedback conversation can be designed from the outset to be mutual.
  • Give feedback regularly yourself. If someone understands that feedback is not a bad thing and is part of an open culture, they are more likely to give feedback themselves.
  • Always conduct discussions openly. If nothing is concealed even in factual discussions, there is also an open communication culture in personal relationships.
  • Speak out publicly against blasphemy. Blasphemy has no place in a company. If someone has problems with a person, the feedback conversation should be sought as soon as possible. This should be made clear directly in public at the first tendencies of blasphemy.

Feedback Tip #7: Engage Mediators

Sometimes it can happen that particularly serious conflicts arise. For these cases, there should be a mediator role in the company who then moderates the feedback process and pays attention to the points mentioned above.  

If possible, the mediator should have moderation experience and feedback experience and should not be part of the management. In this way, he or she can ensure a balance of power even on critical issues.

Feedback tip #8: Also give feedback spontaneously

A big mistake is when the feedback culture degenerates into a formal action. In the worst case, people sit together once a year and work through a checklist without talking openly and honestly with each other. Many points in the course of the year are already forgotten and there are no concrete examples for suggestions for improvement. Certain opinions about colleagues have already become entrenched because they have not had a chance to correct their behavior.

For this reason, it is quite common at RAIDBOXES for a person to receive feedback several times a quarter or to actively request it.

Feedback culture

Feedback tip #9: Feedback can also only be positive

There is often a common belief that feedback must be bad per se or always contain criticism. In my view, this is not the case. Particularly good employees often do everything right and inspire people by exceeding expectations and not needing to talk much at all.

Nevertheless, you should briefly sit down with your colleagues at least once every six months and tell them how much you appreciate their work. Especially if there have been points of criticism in the past, it is particularly nice to learn that these are no longer perceived as such and that your own further development is appreciated.

Feedback tip #10: Give targeted feedback

Especially when there have already been many feedback discussions, situations can arise where there is nothing new to say to each other. Therefore, it is important to include feedback in personnel development.

In the end, it does no good to constantly hold a colleague's strengths and weaknesses against him. The goal should be that everyone works according to their individual personality in areas that correspond to their strengths. Feedback discussions should therefore also be an opportunity to change job descriptions.

Feedback is best based on a strengths profile of what each colleague optimally achieves. This can be divided into professional, social, strategic, methodical and personal competence. Appropriate promotions can be linked to the achievement of competencies. In this way, there is a broad transparency in the company about what is expected. Through the feedback discussions, each individual then knows where he or she currently stands, without constantly being made aware of deficits.

Conclusion - Feedback needs to be practiced

I hope you were able to take away one or two points to further improve your feedback culture (or that of your team). Giving and receiving constructive feedback may sound easy at first - in reality, however, it requires sensitivity and practice, especially when it comes to negative criticism.

As you have seen, there are several aspects to consider when it comes to feedback. With this in mind, have fun practicing!

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