The Manager’s Guide to Building A Positive Feedback Culture

Apr 05, 2017

The Manager’s Guide to Building A Positive Feedback Culture

Feedback is natural at agencies. Done right, feedback can be a source of constructive conversation that guides employees toward improvement. When a strong feedback culture exists, the whole organization benefits.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” — Elon Musk

The Three Step Guide to Creating a Friendly Feedback Culture:

1. Start with management. Ensure that the leadership at your company is striving for an environment that encourages learning. Top-down theory of feedback.

2. There is a psychological component to feedback. Make sure you, as a manager, provide a safe, psychologically stable work environment for your workers.

3. Take part in meaningful dialogue with your team, consistently.

Feedback culture starts with your managers

Your feedback culture starts with your managers. Most people say that when their managers give them feedback, they feel valued. When employees do not receive feedback, they feel discouraged. And yet most employees say they don’t get enough. With agency life already being fast-paced, you need to nail the best feedback loop. And it all starts with your managers.

Rule of Thumb for Manager’s

Rule of Thumb: five positive comments for every constructive comment. Constructive criticism has a direct effect on employees’ performance. There is actually a golden ratio, too, of positive to negative (or constructive) criticism.

According to researchers Heaphy and Losada, “The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams,” the researchers found, “was the ratio of positive comments.” This ratio was 5.6 to one. Similarly, another study by psychologist John Gottman found the most successful positive to negative feedback ratio was five to one. This means that for every five or six positive feedback comments, there should be one constructive feedback comment. That creates the recipe for a successful feedback culture.

Positive comments are those that make the employee feel good about his or her performance. These comments create enthusiasm, build confidence and self-esteem, and makes the employee feel acknowledged for a specific job that has met or exceeded expectations.

Constructive criticism helps the employee understand how to become a more effective employee. These comments help develop the employee and build self-awareness for the effects of the employee’s activities. This type of feedback, when combined in the golden ratio of positive comments, can motivate an employee to modify and self-correct his or her own behavior.

The Manager’s Guide to Providing Criticism at Your Agency:

  1. Set clear goals — Before you give feedback, make sure your direct reports know what you will be looking for.
  2. Touch base frequently — Your goal is to build a strong working relationship while improving your employees’ performance. Don’t wait for annual reviews to provide major comments and criticisms. Offer regular, recurrent meetings to deliver your comments on recent work in a timely manner.
  3. Make it private — Hold regular one-on-one meetings so your feedback is comfortably received. This may also make you more comfortable giving it.
  4. Be specific — State specifically what the individual has done. For instance, “When you built the slide deck for our offsite presentation, the sources you used really added credibility to our message.” Alternatively, “When you come in five minutes late some days, the team meeting can’t get started on time.”
  5. Talk to your audience — Modify your messaging to resonate with your employee. Speak their language. Feedback should be personal and, again, specific to your individual direct reports.
  6. Recognize improvements — The benefit of regular meetings is your ability to recognize improvements in the employee’s performance. This type of feedback loop reinforces and encourages positive improvements. For instance, “Last time we spoke, you were sometimes late to team meetings. I noticed you’ve been on time for every meeting during the past two weeks, and I wanted to acknowledge how your promptness has helped the whole team stay on schedule.”
  7. Praise efforts, not results — When you notice your employee making an effort to change, verbally acknowledge and praise this. Results will likely follow but should not be the sole source of positive comments.

Why is Feedback Culture a Requirement for Companies Today?

The fierce competition of today’s economy has dramatically increased the need for companies to practice a positive culture of feedback. It is no longer an option to provide adequate channels of communication, any organization hoping to succeed needs to follow the best practices surrounding feedback. 

 Benefits of A Positive Feedback Culture: 

  • All employees are informed and up-to-date when it comes to internal annoucements.
  • All team members are on the same page when it comes to organizational goals or operational plans.
  • Team members feel open to sharing their concerns, fostering a greater collaborative environment.
  • Boost creativity
  • Increases drive and commitment
  • Greater sense of unity amongst the team
Editors Note: The original version of this post was published in April, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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