Feedback — both positive and constructive — is a crucial part of building a successful organization. Not only can feedback improve your organization as a whole, but your employees actually want feedback; according to a 2016 article in Forbes, nearly two-thirds of employees said they want more feedback than they’re currently getting.
So we can all agree feedback is a must, but effective feedback doesn’t “just happen.” If you want to use feedback to inspire the best in your team (and yourself!), you need to foster a culture where giving, receiving, and acting on feedback isn’t just tolerated — it’s both expected and embraced.
But why, exactly, is feedback such an important part of building a thriving company? How do you foster that feedback culture within your own organization? And how can you leverage feedback to elevate your team, improve your systems and processes, and take your business to the next level?
Why creating a feedback culture is so important
First things first — before we jump into how to foster a feedback culture within your organization, let’s first cover why feedback is so important.
If you want to build a thriving business, you need to be in a state of constant improvement. However, it can be challenging to identify the areas we most need to work on; because we’re so close to the issue, it can be like we have blinders on.
Feedback can help both employees and leaders get better insights into how their actions, behaviors, and work performance is perceived by the rest of their team. These insights can help them identify areas where they could stand to improve — and act as a catalyst for positive change.
Feedback can also be extremely helpful for leadership. Because leaders are often removed from the day-to-day tasks of their team, it can be challenging for them to identify ways to improve operations.
By gathering feedback from your team, you can get clear insights into what’s working, what’s not working, and how to best improve systems, processes, and workflows to maximize productivity — and make sure your employees have what they need to succeed.
Having cleared that up, how exactly do you then create a feedback culture within your organization? Well, this is how I do it.
1. Be the example
It was Ghandi who said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And, as a leader, if you want to use feedback to inspire change within your organization, it needs to start with you.
Corporate culture always starts at the top — so if you want your employees to openly give and receive feedback, you need to model that behavior within your leadership.
Create an open door policy and encourage employees to give any feedback on how you, their team, or the organization as a whole can improve. Accept that feedback constructively; don’t get defensive and never make an employee feel uncomfortable or punished for voicing their concerns.
In addition to modeling the right way to receive feedback, you also need to model the right way to deliver it. Make sure that any feedback you give is coming from a place of helping your team improve and grow; feedback should be constructive, not critical. And make sure you deliver as much positive feedback as you do constructive; letting people know what they’re doing right and how they’re succeeding is just as important as cluing them in to opportunities for improvement.
2. Create opportunities for different types of feedback
Not all feedback is created equal. While some team members will feel confident delivering feedback face-to-face, the thought of giving feedback in person will make others extremely uncomfortable.
That’s why it’s so important to create opportunities to deliver feedback in a variety of ways. Offering things like anonymous feedback forms or surveys (in addition to opportunities to share feedback in a more direct way) can help empower all your employees to share their thoughts and insights — even if more direct, face-to-face communication isn’t their style.
3. Build feedback into your day-to-day operations
If you truly want to build a feedback culture — and use feedback to elevate your team and your organization — you can’t reserve feedback for annual reviews or critical situations. Instead, you need to make feedback a core part of your corporate DNA — and build it into your day-to-day operations.
So, for example, if you hold a company-wide meeting, send out feedback forms to your team to ask what they found helpful and what they thought could have been improved. If you roll out a new internal process, check in regularly with your team to see how it’s going (for example, after a week, 30 days, and 90 days) — and then make any necessary changes based on your team’s feedback.
Instead of waiting for an employee’s annual review to deliver insights on their performance, give them real-time feedback on what they’re doing well and how they can improve — and do it often.
When you normalize feedback and build it into your day-to-day operations, it’s much easier for your team to give and receive feedback openly and use it to continually improve — which will help to improve your organization as a whole.
4. Act on it
If your team realizes their feedback isn’t going anywhere, they’re going to stop giving it — and you’re going to lose out on their insights and the opportunity to improve your organization.
So while giving and receiving feedback is a great first step, if you truly want to leverage feedback to grow your team and organization, you have to take things a step further and actually act on that feedback.
If a team member comes to you with constructive feedback, acknowledge it, ask questions to make sure you understand what they feel could be improved or how they want to see things change, and then let them know you’re going to work on the issue. Then, actually do it.
If someone offers feedback that, for whatever reason, isn’t actionable for your company, it’s still important to acknowledge them and explain to them why you can’t implement their feedback. Making sure your employees feel heard is key in fostering a feedback culture — and making sure your team feels empowered to share their ideas and give you the feedback you need to improve your business.
Embrace feedback — and use it to take your business to the next level
Fostering a feedback culture is a must if you want to inspire the best in your leadership, your team, and your organization. And now that you understand how to create that culture and embrace feedback, you can start building feedback into your company’s DNA — and watch it thrive as a result.
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