Normalize Feedback and Become a High Feedback Organization by Shannon Floer
I was asked to facilitate a session for Leadership Saskatoon on the topic of “giving and receiving feedback” about the same time the post “Receiving Feedback Well” was published. That post was my first introduction to Stone and Heen’s (2014) book Thanks for the Feedback and how they divided feedback into three categories: Appreciation, Developmental and Evaluation. They also acknowledge how difficult it is to receive feedback and the reasons why.
I used these three categories as a jumping off point for my workshop. It was a bit of an “aha” moment to see feedback separated out like that and I could see the value of providing a balance of the three when trying to normalize feedback.
While feedback is often delivered in a one-on-one conversation, rarely is it in isolation of the many facets that contribute to an organization’s culture. Feedback typically involves discussions regarding how a person behaves (positively or negatively), how their skills and knowledge contribute to the work they are doing and the goals they have set for themselves, and how their behaviour and achievements are in alignment with the work team and the organizational mission, vision and goals.
I figured if you could divide feedback into three categories then perhaps you could also divide the responsibility for normalizing feedback and building a high feedback organization into three categories: self (leader), work teams, and organization.
Start with Self
As mentioned in the Receiving Feedback Well post, there are so many ways to receive feedback as a leader. At Leadership Saskatoon they engage in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Leadership Practices 360 degree review (LPI 360) and those were natural places for me to draw on regarding feedback they had already received.
For example, knowing if you have a preference for extraversion or introversion can help you understand how you may approach delivering feedback. People who have a preference for extraversion often need to “talk to think” but talking out your thoughts as someone’s feedback could have unintended consequences. As a leader you may need to find a trusted partner to talk it out and the write it down so it can be delivered later.
Another step a leader can take is being highly visible in soliciting feedback from a wide variety of people within the organization. This role modeling along with demonstrating how the feedback has made an impact could help build enough trust that would allow people to experience the necessary vulnerability to be:
- generally more open and more receptive to feedback
- shift to embrace feedback as a gift or opportunity, and
- to not fear a feedback conversation or see it as a punishment.
Leaders may need to “take the pulse” of their work teams and reflect on where their team is in the five stages of group dynamics.
How receptive individuals on a team may be to feedback could depend on how comfortable they feel as a member of the team, if there are any conflicts, struggles for power or how clear the roles and tasks are. The website Mindtools has a good resource that explores the five stages of group dynamics and the role of a leader within each of the stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
At the workshop the Leadership Saskatoon class assessed what their organizations were doing or could be doing in each of Stone and Heen’s three categories: appreciation, developmental or evaluation. It is a simple exercise that can help leaders determine if there is a balance in the types of feedback that is provided or if there is one category that tends to be the norm.
I searched for additional methods to contribute to building a high feedback culture and appreciated those shared by Dan Levy, Director, Facebook Global small business team shares five methods to increase feedback:
- Ask-he ends most meetings and conversations by asking for feedback
- Don’t punish [especially if you hold a position of power]
- Show the impact-tell your team how you used their feedback, demonstrate what changes have been made based on their feedback
- Make it easy– Levy shares how he engages someone he supervises
“‘Hi. I’d love your feedback about our 1-on-1 meeting. I’m worried that I talked too much and didn’t let you explain your point.’ Then I wait.”
- Create safe spaces– holding office hours where people can drop in, inviting small groups to lunch or for quick chats
When leaders reflect on their own experiences with feedback, how their MBTI preferences or LPI 360 feedback results could impact how they give and receive feedback and then consider the group dynamics and power dynamics of their team they have engaged in steps to improve communication.
When leaders examine what kind of feedback is provided and what mechanisms exist to invite feedback they start examining the culture of feedback and can determine what changes or additions may be needed.
Questions for Leaders, Teams and Organization as a Whole to Consider
- What is the value of good feedback?
- Why would an organization want a high feedback culture?
- Think of a time when you did not accept feedback (or advice or evaluation). What were the reasons? (from Stone and Heen, YouTube video presenting at Google)
- How can a leader in a team or organization normalize feedback and create a high feedback culture?
This blog is the fourth blog in a series on Leadership Feedback. You may also be interested in “The Potential of Leadership Feedback”, “Receiving Feedback Well” and “Giving Yourself Meaningful Feedback” posts.
Shannon Floer is from Saskatoon and has had a love for leadership education for over 20 years. She is a consultant and facilitator and former program director for Leadership Saskatoon. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org