Feedback gym for your team

Broadly, there are two levers to pull with the way that your feedback culture will improve:

  • Quality of feedback – how well leaders are able to deliver feedback

  • Quantity of feedback – how often and how much feedback is provided by leaders

It is ideal if both quantity and quality of feedback can be lifted. Most programs understandably focus on lifting the quality of feedback for participants. The rationale for this is typically that leaders are not delivering feedback because they lack the confidence or capability to do so. Whilst there is no doubt that all of us are able to improve our feedback skills, this fails to acknowledge what we know. Leaders are busy!

So often, the reason that leaders don’t deliver feedback is because they feel like they don’t have the time. Even leaders who are committed to delivering good feedback, have the skills and a strong working relationship with their team are busy! Delivering feedback for team members typically sits as in  Steven Covey’s Quadrant II – important, but not urgent. That is until it becomes both important and urgent – and feedback is delivered as a way of averting a crisis. What leaders need is a way to steadily increase the frequency of their feedback conversations. 

An implied message that is sent through many training programs is the high expectations that we have of participants. There is an implication that we expect every leader to be able to deliver feedback that meets the framework that the facilitator has presented - to the level that they presented at. What can happen if we take this approach is that we send participants away excited and expecting to be able to deliver excellent feedback immediately. We can often, inadvertently, set an unsustainably high bar. After leaving the workshop, a participant may make appointments for their team to have weekly feedback conversations, prepare diligently for each and start with gusto.  What can quickly happen is that soon they run into barriers like:

  • Having to reschedule, shorten or even cancel appointments

  • Their feedback delivery doesn’t meet the high expectations set in the workshop

  • Team members don’t receive the feedback positively

The most important thing when anyone is starting to go to the gym go to the gym! Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

The most important thing when anyone is starting to go to the gym go to the gym! Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

This is where it becomes a little bit like going to the gym. The most important thing when anyone is starting to go to the gym go to the gym! It really doesn't matter (initially) how much work gets done at the gym (as long as it's not causing harm). The most important thing is to leave the house, set the time aside and turn up. It’s not very important that we are able to do a chin-up or bench press our body weight on our first visit to the gym - even if those are our overall goals. More important is that we keep turning up. Over time, going to the gym will feel a bit more normal and if we keep doing some work, over time we might actually start to get better, see the benefits of the process and maybe even enjoy it!

This is exactly what we can be aiming for when we support leaders to improve the feedback culture in their team. Instead of approaching feedback as needing quality before increasing quantity - flip it. Focus on quantity and the quality will come.

Some questions for you to consider this week:

  1. Are you inadvertently setting an unrealistically high bar for feedback in your team or organisation?

  2. How can you make feedback a bit more normal in your team?

On 8 August, I’ll be running a webinar which is free to attend that goes into more detail about why feedback skills are not enough to develop a strong feedback culture. I'd be delighted if you and/or your colleagues can attend. If you are interested, but the timing doesn't work, please register and I can then send you a recording of the session as well as the resources that go along with it.

The details are here: