Creating a feedback-rich culture, no matter what type of group or team you’re dealing with, always starts at the top. When the leader or perceived leader of any group shuts down others for their ideas, thoughts, or opinions, it spreads to the entire team and sets the tone of future collaboration. As a leader, it can be hard sometimes to lead a group in a new way with an open feedback-rich culture, but it can pay off in big ways.
Teams that are free to express concerns, present new ideas, and disagree with each other tend to be more innovative and productive – as long as the leader can set the right tone so that the environment continues being supportive. Let’s look at some ways that you can build a safe environment and set the right example and tone.
How to Build a Safe Environment
Let’s look at some direct ways to build safe environments which will create a feedback-rich culture and make the most of everything you can do together as an organization, workplace, classroom, or team.
- Make It Safe to Express Emotions – Emotions are a normal human function that shouldn’t be shoved down. Whether it’s a hard to deal with emotion like anger, or a fun emotion like enthusiasm and happiness, all should be free to express them in a healthy way in a feedback-rich environment.
- Set Clear Expectations – When you set up a feedback-rich culture, it’s not just a top-down thing even though it begins with the top. Everyone should give feedback and understand how to do it safely, as part of the normal course of the day, along with knowing the goal of sharing that feedback.
- Encourage Disagreement – When you have a culture that’s working right, everyone has a right to their own opinion and to disagree. Even the person getting negative feedback can disagree with it. They can even state that they need to think about it. It’s all acceptable.
- Learn to Take Honest Critique – One problem with feedback is when you’re on the receiving end of a critique. Whether it’s positive or negative, learning and teaching how to take it properly with respect is an important aspect of creating a feedback-rich environment.
- What Tolerance Really Means – When we talk about tolerance, there has to be some form of line, right? Tolerating a difference of opinion is different from tolerating abusive behavior. So ensure that you explain that clearly.
- Make Feedback Part of Everyday Life – Feedback needs to be part of your daily life and used in all ways that you communicate in all channels. Making it a complete circle in person, in an email, in surveys, on the phone, and by conference is the best way. Everyone has different styles, and this is going to help.
- Share Positive and Negative Feedback – Don’t just share feedback when it’s negative. Some managers like to manage by exception; they’re hands off until there is a problem. This can make you seem very negative. Therefore, start providing feedback that’s good too.
- Praise More – In a feedback-rich culture, the positive should always be shared more than the negative. If you sandwich any negatives inside the positives, it will always go over better. It’s like the saying with kids, “Catch them being good 100 times a day”. That way, when you catch them in something you don’t want them to be involved with, it is listened to harder. The main thing is to celebrate success, especially when that success comes due to the feedback given.
- Allow Everyone to Set Boundaries – Sometimes, if someone is finding it hard to take feedback, they should be able to stop it. Not permanently. But, let them take a breather when they ask and make an appointment to get back to it after thinking.
- Nurture a Learning Environment – Learning and growing is part of a feedback-rich culture. If you keep everyone growing and always learning about their job, other aspects of the job, and communication in general, it makes everyone better.
- Build Relationships – When you focus on relationship building and team building in your team, group, organization or class, it’s going to make a huge difference in how people relate to each other in every aspect of their performance.
- Be the Example – Like mentioned before, it all starts at the top. Demonstrate listening to and responding to feedback. Show that feedback makes a difference with your policies and your actions.
It really is that simple to set up a feedback-rich environment. It’s going to be a lot better once you implement it. Once you’ve got it set up, anytime you bring on someone new you can offer communication training that will get them up to speed understanding this environment before their feet hit the floor.