• Mark Hallander

Creating a feedback-oriented organization

Feedback is a tool to turn good behavior into great behavior. But in our busy workdays, how do we succeed in doing so? I will give you some perspectives on why feedback is important, and how you can apply it in your organization.

#feedback #organizationalperformance #activelistening #leadership


Why feedback?

In general, feedback is a tool that can make yourself, your colleagues, and your organization stronger, because it allows us to track and know how other people perceive our performance.


However, feedback is not only a tool for finding the gaps in processes or behavior - but it is also something that can help us to reinforce great work - making us better at something we are good at in the first place.


So generally speaking, feedback is great when it comes to improving performance. Here are a few more factors to consider:


Self-esteem and Productivity

With feedback, we can energize employees to perform at their peak, and this highly impacts performance on an individual and team level. It also enhances employees' self-image and creates important identification with work. More self-esteem will, in turn, increase productivity, which generates better results.


Without feedback, feelings of dislocation from the company mission might occur, which will ultimately cause an employee to be less productive.


Employee Engagement Whether you are a student or a manager, the right amount of feedback will make your role perceived as more respected and valued. Different people require different amounts of feedback, but without it, some employees might not feel fully valued for their work contribution, which can harm employee satisfaction.


When we fail to give feedback, the consequences are severe, as employees can become disengaged in their work. Employees want to feel wanted and involved. Without feedback, employees can feel unimportant, and even negative feedback is better than an employee feeling unimportant.


For me to set the scene for how we work with feedback in organizations, we'll take an example around team dynamics.


The secret ingredient: What successful teams understand

Google took upon themselves to find out what makes up the best teams. The study including teams of various structures (job, culture, introverted/extroverted people) found that teams where everyone felt safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other performed the absolute best. With psychological safety, every team member was simply able to harness the power of the new, diverse ideas, and create more revenue, according to Google.


So how can you incorporate this in our own organization?


It comes down to understanding the starting point for all good feedback in teams: Cognitive diversity. This means that everyone learns and acquires knowledge differently. To better empower the people in the team you must, therefore, create a forum of trust and openness to what is different.


An important premise for feedback, therefore, is to know that we have different understandings and you should have confidence in other people's willingness to do their best.


Working with active listening

A key part of this train of thought is to create a culture where people can share ideas and encourage active listening. First, you need to recognize that you understand hardships or doubts. Second, it might help to repeat what you have heard to ensure consistent understanding and anchoring.


Pay attention to your share in the problem as well as your way of delivering advice in the situation. If you are listening "with your head full of your own words" you are not actively listening.


With the premises established, we can move on to the framework.


The 5 C’s of feedback: A framework for action

To make feedback a natural part of business processes, you can use the 5 C's framework. Remember that the framework is only a guiding tool - a foundation to work with creating feedback processes within the organization.


1. Concrete

To make feedback as effective as possible, you should be factual and use examples while they are fresh. Instead of including everything that comes to mind, focus on the specific situation. If a coworker is giving you a hard time over a longer period of time, don’t let it accumulate and turn worse - give feedback in the situation to make it more concrete.


2. Constructive

We provide feedback to find a common solution, so what could be different? Suggest points for action. Your approach to rhetoric should always be a learning one. No one is perfect, so formulate it as "how we can become better at X" rather than "X is not good enough".


3. Critical

That being said, feedback should also have a critical aspect. Critical in the sense that we can look for things that ought to be done better (finding a more appropriate way) rather than just enforce positive behavior (repeating what is going well). While many people prefer critical feedback, rather than appreciative feedback, because it enables us to do something better, it is recommended to work with both critical and appreciative feedback.


4. Caring

Feedback is very much a process of developing individuals and therefore has a caring element. Trust is a keyword, as we must trust in our colleagues and their purpose of helping us develop through feedback. This means that you should avoid any hidden agendas when giving feedback because it can hurt trust. Instead, be open and curious with an understanding of your ability to succeed through dialogue.


5. Consistent

As it goes with different organizational practices, becoming good at feedback takes time and practice. You need to be persistent and develop routines for how you are to work on it, for instance through 1:1's, team debriefs / evaluations after projects or meetings etc. It is important to establish what you are feedbacking on beforehand: Are you measuring the dynamics of a team during a client presentation or looking for a certain best practice in projects? When you find a formula, stick to it as a method.


Final remarks: 6 tips for giving feedback in the situation

Establishing a feedback-oriented culture (and seeing the results of it) takes time. It comes down to your work with it on a long-term basis. I recommend that you focus your efforts on creating a common language: Legitimize that you want to improve through feedback on a day-to-day basis. The rest will come with consistency.


For the concrete situation, where you are to give feedback, use these tips:

  1. Establish purpose and effect: Make sure to start out with establishing why you are doing it and what you expect to get out of it.

  2. Look at who you are facing: How will the person be likely to take your feedback and how can you adjust your approach accordingly? For instance, giving advice based on your own experience (advising approach) or asking the person what they would do themselves (coaching approach).

  3. Listen more than you talk: This goes back to the point about active listening, which requires an open mind, asking questions, and not hearing yourself speak.

  4. Stay away from absolutes: Be careful about expressing yourself in absolutes like "you always..." or "you never...", as it creates black-and-white unchangeable truths that are not easy to handle. Instead, relate to facts and use "I experience that...".

  5. Think of solutions: It is a good idea to bring a couple of solutions to the problem at hand. Have them in mind, but let the other person help to make the final solution. Remember to ask what they think and how they experience the situation.

  6. Make a plan of action: Rounding off, make sure to establish who does what and when.


If you want to read more content like this, see my thoughts on the strength of interpersonal communication, the stories that control our emotions or working with cultural diversity in organizations.