Feedback Culture

Developing a feedback culture in the team: 10 tips

Feedback is actually an old shoe. Nevertheless, it is far too often used incorrectly. Anyone who has ever worked in a proper feedback culture knows about its transformative effect. In the following article, I give you ten tips on how you can develop a positive feedback culture in your team.

Somehow, everyone has heard feedback before. Most of us have also been in the situation of giving or receiving feedback. I myself came into contact with a real feedback culture for the first time in my student organization AIESEC. It was an enlightenment for me. Open and honest feedback has helped me the most of all personal and professional training courses.

At Raidboxes, feedback has become an integral part of the corporate culture. Before I tell you how you can further improve your feedback culture in the ten tips, let's take a brief look at what makes a good feedback culture and what advantages it has.

Why feedback? The advantages at a glance

Feedback is a mandatory event in many companies. Employees are asked to attend an evaluation meeting once a year, at least if their line manager has nothing more important to do. However, if you handle feedback in this way, you are wasting potential.

Used correctly, a strong feedback culture has the following advantages:

  • Personal conflicts can be resolved more quickly and effectively.
  • Misunderstandings in communication can be clarified more quickly.
  • Aggression and frustration are reduced by the feedback provider before they escalate.
  • The feedback recipient gets to know their strengths and weaknesses much better. This also reveals opportunities for development.
  • External and self-perception are compared. The feedback recipient is shown their "blind spot"(Johari window).
  • Mutual expectations are clearly communicated. Everyone knows where they stand. This provides orientation and security in everyday working life.
  • Collaboration runs more smoothly when disruptive factors have been eliminated in the feedback discussion.
Feedback Culture Johari Window
The so-called "blind spot" is the area that others are aware of, but of which one is not aware oneself.

Overall, a positive feedback culture in the team lays the foundation for good and effective collaboration. It promotes open communication and creates space for ideas. At best, a relationship is created between the feedback giver and feedback recipient that is characterized by appreciation.

A strong feedback culture also ensures that your team continues to develop. The open exchange reveals weaknesses or, conversely, shows that you and your team are on the right track.

What makes a good feedback culture?

Openness and trust are the two most important building blocks if you want to develop a good feedback culture in the team. Both should be firmly anchored in the corporate culture, just like giving feedback itself.

This is not just about trust within teams, but also across hierarchies. Feedback should be possible both horizontally (i.e. among colleagues) and vertically between different levels in the company.

It is also important that feedback is given continuously - sitting down together once a year does not make a feedback culture (see also tip 8).

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. There are numerous methods here. The Power Burger is particularly famous.

Feedback Culture 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 is always positive feedback about a person. If you can't think of any points off the top of your head, sit down and think about them.

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

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

"Nonetheless, I'm very happy to have you as a team member and I'm very confident that you can improve significantly in that area."

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

With feedback, you only share your own subjective perspective with someone else. There is no objective truth here 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 do sloppy work." (You perspective)

"It seems to me that you could use some tweaking in how thoroughly you complete tasks." (first-person perspective)

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

"I perceive this ..."
"From my point of view ..."
"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.

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Feedback tip #4: Give constructive suggestions

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

Example: "I would like you to let me look over your work for the next few weeks to check for thoroughness."

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 discussion, since the feedback provider 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 has a different opinion, that's perfectly fine. It is up to you to respect their perception.

give feedback

The feedback receiver has three ways 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.

For example, the feedback receiver reviews his work again in peace after completing it to check whether other people can also understand it. The feedback provider may be the only one who finds his work unclear. In order to avoid misunderstandings, the feedback recipient could now take care to clearly communicate that he is already doing extra checking and that other people find the work clear. An example of an appropriate response:

"I can understand why this impression was created and will be careful to structure the results more in your style if they are relevant to you."

2. acceptand initiate improvement

Under certain circumstances, the feedback recipient shares the criticism. He adjusts his behavior accordingly to improve his results in the future.

"I can understand why a different structure is required here and will look at how to change that."

3. do not adapt perception and behavior

The feedback recipient does not share 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, it's clear and I think it's appropriate; other people should also be able to work with it. "

Feedback Tip #6: Ask for feedback yourself

How do you establish a proper feedback culture in the company? A culture in which colleagues also give each other feedback and it is not always the manager who criticizes others.  

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:

  • Even as a manager, ask others for their feedback. The feedback discussion can be designed to be two-way from the outset.
  • Give feedback regularly yourself. When someone learns 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 discussion should be sought as quickly 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 in the team. 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, this person should have moderation experience and feedback experience and should not be part of the management team. In this way, he or she can ensure a balance of power even on critical topics.

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Feedback Tip #8: Give feedback spontaneously as well

It is a big mistake 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 during the year are already forgotten and concrete examples for improvement suggestions are missing. Certain opinions about other people have already become entrenched because they have not had a chance to correct their behavior.

Therefore, it is also quite common at Raidboxes for a person to receive feedback several times per quarter or to actively request this.

Feedback Tip #9: Feedback can also only be positive

There is often the common opinion that feedback per se must be bad 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 sit down with the others at least once every six months and let them know how much you appreciate their work. Especially if there have been points of criticism in the past, it is particularly nice to receive feedback that these are no longer perceived as such and that your own development is appreciated.

Feedback Tip #10: Give feedback purposefully

Especially when there have already been many feedback meetings, situations can arise in which you no longer have anything new to say to each other. It is therefore important to include feedback in personnel development.

In the end, it does no good to constantly hold someone's strengths and weaknesses against them. 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, which everyone achieves in the optimum case. This can be divided into professional, social, strategic, methodological and personal competencies. Promotions can be linked to the achievement of competencies. In this way, there is broad transparency in the company about what is expected. Through the feedback discussions, everyone then knows where they currently stand, 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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