How to create an environment receptive to feedback
We use the end of the year as a time to reflect on how we've progressed – the goals we've hit, areas we've struggled – and identify how we can improve in the year to come. Like my organization, I'm sure many of you are beginning the annual review process to measure those professional aspects.
While the calendar year provides good markers for us to judge our growth and make resolutions, the key component of an annual review – feedback – is something that should always be encouraged in the office, regardless of what the calendar says. It's how we learn to adapt. It's how we get stronger.
But giving and receiving feedback can be uncomfortable. There's a delicate balance to how it's communicated to ensure it's received positively. In a recent post, leadership guru Art Petty outlines seven things leaders can do to establish an environment that's receptive to feedback:
- Teach your team the real purpose of feedback. Feedback is intended to help us do better. In the workplace, it's important for leaders to make the connection between advice and how it will improve the employee's performance. Getting their buy-in will boost engagement and productivity.
- Work to create a healthy feedback environment with your team. Your team should be comfortable sharing feedback with you and each other. Teach them how to respectfully give and receive feedback. Make it a regular component of discussions so it's just a normal part of the day.
- Teach your team to give you meaningful feedback. As a leader, you must set the example. Whether it's how you frame the feedback you give others or your response to someone else's, your employees will be watching – and mirroring – your actions.
- Ask questions about feedback you don't understand. I'm sure we're all guilty of glossing over deeper reasons behind advice to protect feelings. In the office hierarchy, many employees feel timid offering direct feedback to managers and executives. Help them get comfortable doing so by asking questions and thanking them for their input.
- Design feedback discussions for success. Communication should be intentional, and that's especially true when giving feedback. Put thought into your advice and have a clear idea of where you want the conversation to go.
- Conduct feedback discussions with care and empathy. Put your emotional intelligence to work when delivering feedback. If it's constructive criticism you're delivering, resist the urge to drop and run. Put yourself in your employees' shoes and show care and empathy to help them work through it.
- Let go of the past and shift focus to the future. Again, feedback is intended to help us do better. Once identifying the area that needs improvement, move the conversation toward developing a path for success.
"Feedback can be powerful or incredibly destructive," Petty writes, and he's right. Establish an office environment where effective feedback is encouraged and appreciated and you'll see the resulting benefits in your company's – and employees' – growth.
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