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How to create a “feedback friendly” environment

Do you believe in continuous improvement? If you do, the foundation for that is to get everyone in your team comfortable at giving and receiving feedback. So, how do you get every one comfortable at giving and receiving feedback? Of course, the person holding the key is you. You have to create an environment that makes your team members:

  • Feel safe engaging in feedback sessions.
  • Trust the desired key outcome of feedback which is solely for continuous improvement.
  • Ready to give as well as receive feedback in compliance with your department’s rules of engagement.

In order to achieve the above, you can consider doing the following:

  1. Establish readiness to engage in a feedback session:You should clearly establish the objectives and rules of engagement for giving and receiving feedback. The main objectives of feedback are to reinforce good behaviors and to rectify bad behaviors. The rules of engagement will include:

    • Being open and respectful.
    • Focusing on the performance actions / behaviors.
    • Avoiding personal attacks.
    • Discussing what’s working, what’s not and what should be done differently.
    • Agreeing on immediate and future action items to reinforce and/or rectify behaviors.
    • Following up on the progress of executions on a periodic basis.


  2. Demonstrate readiness to secure trust from team members:Seeing is believing! Your team members need to see that you are serious about the desired key outcome of feedback is solely for continuous improvement; not a system that is meant to penalize them for poor performances. Hence, you must showcase this passionately. One approach that you can consider is for you to take the lead and launch a feedback campaign on “what you should improve on in the next 30 days”. You can run the campaign as follows:

    • State that your purpose is to seek feedback on what you can improve on in order to serve them better.
    • You are committed to deliver on the mutually agreed action items within the next 30 days from the launch date.
    • Invite them to give feedback openly and respectfully. Every one must give at least one feedback.
    • Capture agreed action items for execution. Pick the top three. Get them to vote.
    • Execute on the top three action items.
    • Provide weekly update if applicable.
    • Regroup 30 days later and demonstrate progress.


  3. Coach team members to give and receive feedback: Upon completion of your campaign (or in parallel during campaign), coach your team members on how to give and receive feedback. Create a few case studies for them to practice. Get them to practice the following step-by-step:

    • When giving feedback:
      • Focus on the performance action or result, not the person. Never accuse the employee.
      • Provide feedback on a timely basis, but not too immediate if any party has strong emotions lingering.
      • Provide coaching guidance, but also seek feedback on said guidance.
      • Close the feedback session with the salient learning points, so that your team members grow from the experience.

    • And when receiving feedback:
      • Focus on the main objective of feedback which is to reinforce or rectify behaviour. Do not take it personally.
      • Listen well and ask questions when you need clarifications.
      • Assume good intentions from the person giving feedback.
      • Ask what needs to be done differently.
      • Thank the person giving you feedback, summarize your learning points and execute the agreed action items.


  4. Continuously improve the feedback process: Monitor the progress of your feedback process on a periodic basis: either monthly or quarterly, as appropriate to your environment. Take stock of where your department stand in its status to become “feedback friendly”. How comfortable are your team members at engaging in feedback sessions? Do they trust the feedback system that you establish? What should you improve on in the next 30 days? 60 days? or 90 days? Execute the relevant action items and repeat the same process regularly.