Creating a Culture That Supports Giving and Receiving Feedback

September 8, 2016


Although the idea of giving regular ongoing feedback to employees and not waiting until the annual performance review has been around for decades it look like companies like Kimberly-Clark, GE and IBM are finally getting serious about doing it. The availability of performance management software to track performance has helped fuel the trend to “manage out dead wood.”

However, it takes more than software or a mandate from senior executives to ensure managers are able to transition from annual performance reviews to regularly giving and receiving feedback. It takes a shift from a paternalistic cultural to one where managers take responsibility for having straightforward and sometimes difficult conversations with direct reports. In some cases, this can be a significant shift.

The success of this trend starts with ensuring you have a strong organizational culture that supports 360 feedback—constructive comments from managers, peers and direct reports. And it’s first and second line managers who are primarily responsible for creating a culture where feedback is seen as productive and normative.

There are four steps managers can take to help shape the organization’s culture so it becomes more feedback-oriented.

1. Set Expectations

Make it clear that giving and requesting ongoing feedback is the norm for the team. Part of this is talking about the importance and benefits of feedback and reinforcing that giving feedback is one of a manager’s most critical responsibilities. Managers need guidelines for what type of feedback is appropriate, how frequently it should be given and in what format.

2. Hold Managers Accountable For Giving Feedback

Managers need feedback too. Include feedback as a goal for each manager as part of the performance management process. Treat this “feedback goal” just as you would any other performance metric. Follow-up during regular, periodic one-on-one discussions to monitor and measure progress.

3. Model Desired Behaviors

Managers need to set an example by requesting feedback themselves and not being defensive when they receive it. In addition, they should use 3 key skills to ensure their feedback will be heard as constructive–active listening, focus on behavioral feedback and balanced feedback.

4. Maintain and Enhance the Self-Esteem of Others.

Maintaining and enhancing the other person’s self-esteem is one of the most important aspects of giving feedback and creating a culture that supports feedback. It helps ensure people will be open to your constructive suggestions and that they will feel capable that they can take the appropriate steps to improve performance.

To maintain and enhance the self-esteem of others managers must:

  • Make feedback a two-way conversation
  • Provide balanced feedback
  • Focus on behavior
  • Provide support and express confidence in the person’s ability
  • Actively listen to the employee
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Author: Rick Lepsinger