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Creating a True Culture of Feedback

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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“We want to create a culture of feedback.”

I hear this constantly from my clients and other leaders; however, I’m never certain that “culture of feedback” means the same thing to those who say it as it does to me or possibly to you. It seems worth our time to explore what a true culture of feedback could be.

Sometimes it’s easiest to achieve clarity about what something is by being clear about what it is not, so let’s start there.

What a True Feedback Culture Is Not

It’s not about turning up the volume on the old ideas and approaches. It’s not about putting our energy into more timely or thorough review forms. It is not believing that brutal frankness is good for all or that frequently pointing out where others have missed the mark is giving them a gift. If our feedback culture is truly about helping inspire growth and advancement, there are no anonymous 360-degree reviews, labels, or ratings where we evaluate a person’s worth against an arbitrary scale invented to make us believe our judgments are sound. A true feedback culture does not accept rumor and hearsay as worthy. It does not accept feedback that is burdened with assumptions nor does it accept the idea that feedback’s value is correlated to titles, levels, or hierarchy.

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With more clarity on what feedback is not, let’s look at elements of a true feedback culture—a culture that aligns with the definition shared in my second feedback blog post.

What a True Feedback Culture Is

In a healthy feedback culture, feedback is light and easy. It’s sought far more often than it’s offered. Feedback flows freely and is integrated into the way we work, celebrate, meet, and reflect. Feedback is offered in the moment (when appropriate) and helps us understand our strengths and the goodness and value we bring others. It means that each of us take time every day to be intentional about noticing the work of others and sharing what we witness, free of judgments or assumptions. It encourages us to explore what we could do or who we could be.

In our true feedback culture, feedback is future-focused and informs better choices for where to put our energy, our voices, and our talents. It expresses our gratitude. It opens us to considering how things may be better with a bit more of this or a little less of that. It’s affirming and inspires us to try new things, reach that next level and maybe even change the course of our careers or our lives.

This new world of feedback sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? We can only get there together; so join our movement to #fixfeedback.

About the Author

Tamra Chandler is founder and CEO of PeopleFirm LLC, one of Forbes 2018 "America's Best Management Consulting Firms." Tamra spent her 30-year career developing effective ways for people and organizations to perform at their peak. She is a nationally-recognized thought leader and speaker and author of How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It. Her latest book, Feedback (And Other Dirty Words), was published June 2019.

Tamra started PeopleFirm with a vision to deliver measurable, meaningful results using people-centered solutions. PeopleFirm has become a go-to partner in its field and consistently earns local and national recognition as a top place to work.

Previously, Tamra was managing partner for Arthur Andersen's PNW Business Consulting practice, and executive in charge of People and Solutions at Hitachi Consulting. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Montana State University and a MBA from the University of Washington.

1 Comment
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I really like the idea of approaching feedback from an attitude of gratitude. I've seen a lot of organizations put together feedback channels and then become discouraged when conversations become negative or actually becoming punitive towards those who give negative feedback or just letting it go until it is truly toxic - all creating a cycle of distrust. Building a culture of feedback requires defining what it means and providing boundaries around how to share feedback and how hear it.
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