When you hear the word feedback, what comes to mind?

In the workplace, we tend to think of feedback as criticism offered by managers and/or leaders about the quality of our work. For some of us, the word may even trigger feelings of fear and dread.

As leaders, we may struggle with the process of giving feedback because we worry about discouraging our team. But by broadening and reframing our view of workplace feedback, we can foster a more motivating, generative, and collaborative environment.

A reframing of the feedback process can have profound and positive effects on:

  • the flow of information between managers and reports
  • how managers are perceived by their teams
  • Employee engagement

In an article about seeking feedback as a leadership practice, renowned leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman propose an extended definition of feedback, in which the manager actively seeks it from their reports, noting that this shift is especially necessary for remote and hybrid work.

The team conducted a study during the pandemic in which they categorized 3,422 managers into top or bottom quartiles based on their “effectiveness at asking for feedback and giving others honest feedback in a helpful way” and assessed the engagement levels of those managers’ reports. They found that the scores were significantly higher for those managers that fell in the top quartile of seeking and giving honest feedback.

As leaders, we can feel confident that honing our feedback-seeking skills will motivate our team and nurture healthy relationships.

How can you create a feedback culture? Here are a few tips to get started:

  • After giving a presentation or concluding a project, ask each member of your team for one suggestion for how you can improve
  • Integrate seeking feedback into regular work practices
  • Express appreciation for the feedback you receive
  • Take the time to intentionally apply suggestions

When it comes to giving feedback, data from the Zenger/Folkman study point to the following:

  • The ratio of positive to constructive feedback should be proportional to the ratio of good work to work that needs improvement. For example, if 90% of work is strong and 10% needs improvement, feedback should be 90% positive and 10% constructive. This will keep employees from feeling like their shortcomings are recognized more than their strengths.
  • Train your brain to seek opportunities to give positive feedback to reports. A gesture as simple as thanking an employee for bringing up a point in a meeting can motivate employees to volunteer more ideas.
  • Offer positive feedback for requesting feedback. As clumsy as it sounds, expressing appreciation when a team member asks for feedback creates a culture in which the process is encouraged.

Please feel free to share these tips with anyone who may find them interesting or helpful.

If you or your team is struggling with the feedback process, I can help. Email me at explore@nancyrburger.com or schedule a discovery call here.

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