10 Tips for Improving Your Feedback Culture  

Johannes Benz Updated on 22.10.2020
7 Min.
Improve feedback culture
Last updated on 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 and maybe even given or received it. I myself first came into contact with a real feedback culture in my student organization AIESEC. For me it was an epiphany. Of all the personal and professional training courses, open and honest feedback has helped me the most.

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 the evaluation meeting comes, at least if the supervisor has nothing more important to do. Used correctly, a feedback culture has the following advantages:

  • Personal conflicts can be solved faster and more effectively
  • Aggressions are reduced by the feedback giver before they escalate
  • The feedback recipient gets to know his strengths and weaknesses much better
  • The feedback recipient is shown his "blind spot" (Johari windows)
Johari windows
The so-called "blind spot" is the area that is known to others but of which one is not aware oneself.

Feedback Tip #1: Take notes beforehand

This is often neglected or considered unnecessary. Of course you can spontaneously give a person a few feedback points. Especially when all you really want to do is get your criticism out.

However, for an appropriate and balanced feedback you should take at least ten minutes and note down both positive aspects and aspects that need improvement. You'll be amazed at the things you can think of.

Feedback tip #2: The power burger

The most important aspect of giving feedback is the structure and way it is given. Famous here is the Power Burger.

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

With a burger, there are first of all the Burger Buns, which cover the meat (the critique). In the beginning you should tell the recipient of your feedback what you appreciate in him/her and what positive aspects should be emphasized. This first introduction serves to open up the other person and to receive the following feedback with a better feeling.

Especially if you yourself are upset for some reason and are focused a lot on negative aspects, remember that there are always positive aspects to a person. If you can't think of any points spontaneously, you should sit down and think about it.

Now follows the criticism, i.e. the meat in the Feedback Burger. The following two tips will give you even more precise advice on how to best formulate them.

Finally, you should finish on a positive note. This is the last burger bun and rounds off the conversation. Both sites leave the conversation with a better feeling. Example:

"Nonetheless, I'm very happy to have you on my team. Very confident that you can make a real difference here."

Feedback Tip #3: Always criticize from the first-person perspective

In feedback you only share your own subjective perspective with someone. Here there is no objective truth per se, but at most inter-subjectivity (several people take the same facts).

It is therefore very important that criticism is formulated from the first-person perspective. Especially if you haven't given feedback frequently, this is not at all self-evident. In our everyday life we usually communicate in the Du-form.

"You're lazy." (you perspective)

"It seems to me you could increase your workload." (Ego-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..."

When your counterpart starts to discuss with you, it is a good indication that you have slipped into the you-perspective. Du formulations in particular are often perceived as an attack.

Feedback Tip #4: Provide 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. This is the only way the feedback recipient can really change something and meet your expectations in the future.

Example: "I'd like you to be in the office at least 9:00 to 6:00."

Feedback Tip #5: Ask for the other perspective

When giving feedback, discussions should be avoided at all costs. They have no place in a feedback conversation, as the feedback provider only shares his subjective perception.

Nevertheless, 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 ideal case - and this happens quite often - he sees it the same way. If the person receiving the feedback disagrees, that is perfectly fine. Here it is up to you to respect his perception.

provide feedback
The feedback recipient has three possibilities to deal with feedback:
1. adapt communication

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

For example, the feedback recipient comes to the office at seven o'clock every morning, but leaves between 16:30 and 17:00. The feedback provider always comes to the office at nine o'clock. In order to avoid misunderstandings, the feedback recipient could now take care to communicate clearly that he or she is often in the office very early. An example of an appropriate response:

"I can understand that this impression has been created and I will take care of it, to communicate more clearly that I'm actually already working much harder."

2. Atake and initiate improvement

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

"I can understand that a higher workload is required here and ...I'm going to get more involved soon."

3. perception and not adapting behaviour

The feedback recipient shares the does not criticize and does not want to further adjust his behavior. This is also legitimate, but may 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 I think my workload is appropriate."

Feedback Tip #6: Ask for feedback yourself

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

Since we are at RAIDBOXES Holacracy the idea of keeping a slot free for feedback discussions at the monthly governance meetings was obvious. However, this has not led to more feedback.

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

In order to initiate a real feedback culture, the following points are recommended:

  • Even as a boss the employees after their feedback questions. From the outset, the feedback discussion can be designed for both sides.
  • Give regular feedback yourself. If someone realises that feedback is not bad and is part of an open culture, they are more likely to give feedback themselves.
  • Always have open discussions. Although nothing is concealed in factual discussions, an open communication culture also prevails in personal relationships.
  • Speak out publicly against blasphemers. 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 clarified directly in public at the first tendencies of blasphemy.

Feedback Tip #7: Engage mediators

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

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

Feedback Tip #8: Give feedback spontaneously

It is a big mistake when the feedback culture degenerates into a formal action. In the worst case, you 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 have already been forgotten again and concrete examples for improvement suggestions are missing. Certain opinions about colleagues have already become entrenched, as they have had no chance to correct their behaviour.

Therefore it is quite common for RAIDBOXES a person to receive feedback several times per quarter or to actively request it.

Feedback Culture

Feedback Tip #9: Feedback may only be positive

There is often a common opinion that feedback per se must be bad or always contain criticism. This is not so from my point of view. Particularly good employees often do everything right and inspire with the fact that they exceed expectations and there is no great need to talk.

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

Feedback Tip #10: Give feedback in a targeted manner

Especially when there has been a lot of feedback conversations, situations can arise where you have nothing new to say to each other. It is therefore important to include feedback in personnel development.

In the end, there is no point in constantly pointing out your strengths and weaknesses to a colleague. The goal should be that everyone works according to their individual personality in areas that match their strengths. Feedback interviews should therefore be a good reason to change job descriptions.

Feedback is best based on a strength profile, which each colleague achieves in the best case. This can be divided according to professional, social, strategic, methodical and personal competence. Appropriate promotions may be linked to the achievement of the competences. Thus, there is a broad transparency in the company about what is expected. Through the feedback conversations, each individual knows where he or she stands without constantly being made aware of deficits.

Conclusion - feedback needs to be practiced

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

As you have seen, there are some aspects to consider when it comes to feedback. In this sense: Have fun while practicing!

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