Is It Possible to Create a Culture of Feedback?

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I’ve noticed a disheartening phenomenon lately. It’s the reluctance to give feedback in the workplace because “they won’t do anything anyway”. People seem to think that if the person or organization they work for doesn’t immediately begin doing what they think should happen, then the feedback wasn’t taken seriously or even listened to.

I get it. We all have strong opinions about what our bosses or leaders should do. Even more, feedback can be a once a year event, and then organizations don’t always do a great job explaining what the feedback was and how they will respond. It’s also human nature to gossip and criticize. Our negativity bias and our propensity to judge others and believe we are right when others are wrong (The Happiness Hypothesis, p. 78) can take over, and we find ourselves going to town with colleagues on what is wrong and what needs to happen to fix it.

The thing is, I need to improve, and I need feedback to do it. I’m hopeful that I can help grow a culture of feedback with those I work with so it becomes more of a habit and not a once a year all or nothing event. Shakil Choudhury of Anima Leadership, uses three questions to help create a culture of feedback:

  1. What am I doing well?
  2. What do I need to improve?
  3. What are my next steps for learning?

I used these intensely personal questions to seek feedback from principals and vice principals about my leadership. The resulting conversations were insightful, challenging, and ultimately very useful.  Does seeking and receiving this feedback mean that I am immediately going to change things to reflect what I heard? Yes… and no. I heard some great suggestions that I can implement right away, I heard things that really made me go “Hmmmm,” and ones that made me realize I need to communicate more and better while staying the course. Most interesting, the feedback showed a wide variety of opinions and a lack of consensus. On reflection, that’s not surprising, since the leaders I work with are quite different from one another.

What you about you? Do you have any feedback for me?

 

I’ve written about feedback before in these posts if you want to read more.

Feedback. Priceless.

Two Essential Questions for Reflection

Learning From My Mistakes

 

2 comments on “Is It Possible to Create a Culture of Feedback?

  1. Aviva says:

    Sue, I really applaud you for being so open with this request for feedback, and asking so publicly for advice. Earlier this summer, I wrote a blog post of my own asking for some feedback, and while I had many reply, I found it interesting how many people direct messaged me with their thoughts. Are we afraid to publicly give feedback? I’d really have to think about feedback to give you — other than the fact that I appreciate how open you are on your blog and through Twitter — but I wonder if I’d have it in myself to be so public in my response. I’m curious to hear what others think around “public feedback,” and if through this “culture of feedback” which you seek to create, we’ll become more comfortable with this idea.

    Aviva

    • Sue Dunlop says:

      I agree that public feedback, apart from praise, is very difficult, and perhaps not very useful. I think feedback is best discussed in person, where there is an opportunity to gauge tone, body language and have a real discussion. That’s why I ask the questions about my leadership in person, either at school visits or in another small meeting setting.

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