Tips for giving tips: How we build a constructive feedback culture
When it comes to actually giving that feedback to others, we tend to get a bit nervous. We love giving kudos, high fives and celebrating wins, but sharing critical feedback can feel a lot harder. Potentially, you’re putting your professional relationships at risk.
So how do you break through the anxiety?
Tips on Giving Tips
What’s the most useful piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
Chances are, it was something constructive. Something that might have felt awkward or uncomfortable at first. But which helped you grow as a professional and as a person.
Outside input is one of the best ways to improve. It helps us learn from others, move on from mistakes, and become better at what we do.
A Feedback-rich culture
Loop’s People Manager, Bas Moeyaert, shared some of his top tips for building the systems and strategies that are needed. As Forbes put it, “creating a feedback-rich culture leans on the foundation of trust, healthy communication and safety.”
These approaches help us to reinforce clear, open communication that makes it easier to share constructive feedback, as well as praise. Because at Loop, a healthy and supportive working environment is non-negotiable.
#1: Building processes
Every week, each Looper fills in a 15-minute online survey. It includes a quick update on how their week went and what they enjoyed, as well as the things they’re struggling with and how their manager can help with that.
The results give our team managers a real insight into what’s going well and what’s not so effective – from the point of view of all of their employees.
The survey has quickly become a habit. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it gives people a safe space – in which they can raise an issue that they might not feel able to raise in another context.
Make it safe
As Bas puts it, “we try to make it safe to give feedback.” Doing so fosters a culture of transparency and accountability, open discussions, and showing our people that we care.
Different team members are likely to feel comfortable approaching feedback in very different ways.
“If you ask upfront for specific feedback, some people can just come up with things that are on their minds,” Bas says. “But others need a bit more preparation work because they want to find the right words, or because they’re afraid it might be too direct.”
If people need time, letter writing can be effective. “I once said, ‘let’s exchange what we feel in writing, and then use that as a basis for further discussion.’ It worked very well, and I got a very respectful and nuanced letter.”
#3: Asking better questions
The way you frame a question can make a big difference to the quality of the response. Simply asking team members ‘What can I do better?’ is unlikely to generate much thought.
“Instead, try ‘What are the two main things that you think I could do differently?’”, Bas suggests. “In my experience, people will be quicker to come up with something that is real feedback. There’s less room to escape the question when you pinpoint it like that.”
#4: Remembering that feedback is a gift
Receiving feedback can be an emotionally triggering experience.
Not all of us are so good at processing criticism – no matter how kindly meant – and it’s important to acknowledge that it can be difficult.
The answer? Reminding yourself that giving feedback is difficult, and takes time and effort. As Bas explains, “When someone shares feedback, it shows that they care about who you are as a person, as a friend and as a colleague.”
“I remind myself that I’m going to hear things that might not be enjoyable to hear, but are for my own good. And that it’s from somebody who has taken the time, initiative and effort to give me that present.”
#5: Getting our timing right
Finally, timing and context are key. If you walked into the office to immediately be greeted by critical feedback, you’d be forgiven for reacting poorly.
So when building a feedback culture, Bas pays great attention to time and place. “One of the best questions you can ask is, ‘I have a piece of feedback, are you ready to receive it?” he explains. “And if they aren’t, you can easily park it and come back to it tomorrow.”
“Some people can take feedback very hard, so the more ways you can find to make it natural – and ingrained in your culture – the better. For some, that means taking advantage of one-to-one situations. For others, anonymous or written feedback, such as via shared online ideas boards, can be incredibly effective.
Building a better Loop
Ultimately, a satisfying and supportive work environment cannot only be built on positives. And it’s important that colleagues are empowered to share constructive thoughts as well as celebrate wins.
By building structures and frameworks (such as the OSCAR method), providing training, and constantly striving to do better, we work hard at Loop to build a culture in which everyone feels able to share their thoughts.