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Creating a feedback culture with your team

One of the most frustrating parts of asking for feedback is getting, “I don’t have any feedback for you” or getting unactionable feedback.

I’ve managed to build good enough relationships with teammates to open up the conversation for us to share honest, productive feedback and help each other grow.

This post shares how I think about creating a culture of feedback and how you can create an environment where you and your teammates feel comfortable enough to share and acceptt honest feedback.

Create an environment for mutual growth.

It is natural for ambitious people to look for ways to grow. However, not all work environments are conducive to the rate of growth such a person might want.

As a team member, whether you’re a peer or a manager, it’s important to create that environment so your teammates feel the psychological safety to give and request feedback.

How I typically do this is to set expectations upfront in a one-on-one conversation. I typically say something like:

“I’m always seeking to get better at my job and work better with my teammates. I want to make sure I’m valuable to the team and that I can also help you grow so I’ll regularly ask for feedback. I know it’s hard to give feedback so, if it’s okay with you, I’d love to do an informal feedback session with you every couple of months to ask you for feedback on how I can make it easier for you to work with me. If you’d like, I can also do the same for you.”

Feedback is a two-way street

Notice, “If you’d like, I can also do the same for you.”

If you’ve ever given feedback, you know that it takes a lot of time and effort to give good, constructive feedback. You don’t want to nitpick all the small things and you don’t want your feedback to be so general that it isn’t actionable.

By asking for feedback, you’re asking your teammate to set aside time from their work to think about their relationship with you, how you communicatet, and how you work together. You’re asking for their time and energy.

Out of respect, you should also offer to help them grow and provide feedback for them as well.

Schedule regular, structured feedback sessions.

I’ve found that quarterly feedback sessions are just the right cadence where enough time has passed and you’ve worked on a enough projects to have anything to give feedback on.

Monthly has shown to be too frequent and so much can happen in one year that an annual feedback session is not frequent enough to share feedback in a timely manner.

I typically set clear expectations of the type of feedback I’ll provide.

“I usually provide three bullet points on why I enjoy working with you and three bullet points on how I think we can improve how we’re working together. Would you be able to do the same for me?”

That information is also included in the calendar invite:

Agenda: Each person to bring
– 3 things that went well and/or reasons that I enjoy working together
– 3 things that could’ve gone better and/or would make it easier to work with each other
– Open discussion

Set up a 30-minute feedback session every three months with an email notification a week beforehand so you both have time to prepare notes for each other. You can even take advantage of tools like QR codes and automate the process by directing participants to a shared document or scheduling tool to prepare and manage feedback sessions efficiently.

Make your feedback specific and actionable.

“You’re late to meetings” isn’t helpful.

However, you can turn that situation into an opportunity for feedback:

“I noticed you’re sometimes late to our team meetings and you often seem a bit stressed during those team meetings. How are you feeling?”

This points out the specific situation you’re giving feedback on and opens it up to conversation. Asking how they’re feeling focuses on their mental and emotional state, versus asking them to defend or explain why they’re late.

If they do offer some explanation, what I’d say is:

“I understand. What I wonder is, how can we make it so you don’t feel rushed from one meeting to another and give you time to debrief from the previous meeting before the next meeting? Maybe that could help you be more present for our team meetings and reduce some pressure.”

It’s no longer about the person late for meetings. It’s about how we can help your teammate be more present and less distracetd during meetings. It’s not about what had happened. It’s about what we can do about it.

Keep it as a discussion.

Feedback doesn’t help when it’s something mandated, i.e. “You have to do this.”

Feedback is best when it aligns with what your teammate wants to achieve whether that be for themselves or for the sake of the project or team or company.

Keep in mind that each person has their own desires, hopes, and dreams for what they want to achieve. Remember that as you’re providing and receiving feedback.

The discussion should continue even outside of your regularly scheduled sessions. In fact, nothing should come up as a surprise during these sessions because you should have built a culture where it’s welcome and expected that you share feedback with each other regularly.

Keep the conversation going and continue to help each other grow.