5 Ways to Improve the Flow of Feedback Within Your Organization

If you are a leader, one of your fundamental objectives should be to make sure everyone on your team knows whether they are doing a good job or not. Crucially, you also need to be able to make it easy for people to let you know if you are doing a good job or not. The best way to do this is to create a culture of communication and feedback within your organization. It is not a quick fix or simple solution, but it is the only way to ensure that communication becomes enshrined as a critical organizational value.

We know that feedback motivates employees, boosts engagement and heightens morale within organizations. Unfortunately, leaders cannot flip a magic switch to change the nature of communication and feedback. It takes continuous work and a consistent effort.

As a leader, it is up to you to get people to buy in to the culture of communication and feedback you intend to create. So, how do you do that in a way that is sustainable? And how can you get your people to join the effort enthusiastically?

I have some ideas…

First, A Few Questions

Before I give you advice to help you improve the flow of feedback within your organization, I think it’s important to make sure you are beginning from a place of awareness.

In order to truly change your organization’s culture, you need to understand where it stands right now. You also need to ensure that you are operating from a place of self-awareness. After all, a lot of leaders feel like they are great at giving feedback and practicing healthy communication when in reality, they have a lot of work to do.

Furthermore, I believe that it’s critical to check in with your assumptions about the current state of your organization and the ways in which communication and feedback are valued.

Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself to clarify where you and your organization stand right now:

  1. “Do I need to pry to get people to open up?” If communication is stagnant within your organization, you’ll know it by the way your people respond to you when you ask them for feedback. If it seems to take a great deal of effort to get people to speak up and share their thoughts openly, it’s likely because they feel uncomfortable with sharing in your organization’s current culture. This means you have quite a bit of work to do in terms of helping people believe it is safe to say what they really think.
  2. “Are people only telling me what I want to hear?” Maybe you feel like you’re getting good feedback from your people on a consistent basis – they seem to have no problem offering their perspectives. But you should pay attention to patterns. Is the feedback you receive useful or actionable? Or has it been carefully designed to sound good to your ears? If you discover that your people are tailoring their feedback to suit what you want to hear – instead of offering you the truth – it’s not your employees’ fault. Rather, you should take the opportunity to consider why they may be afraid to open up. Do you react poorly when feedback is less than positive? This is a good time to consider the ways in which you react to certain types of communications. It’s possible that changing some of your listening behaviors will lead to improvements in communication.
  3. “Am I only telling people what they want to hear?” On the flip side of the communication coin, you need to be courageous and tell people what they need to hear, rather than only giving them what they want to hear from you. Consider some of your recent interactions and conversations. Did you say what needed to be said, or did you sugar-coat it for the sake of avoiding the ruffling of feathers?
  4. “Do people seem to just ignore my feedback for them?” If you find yourself regularly wondering why your people ignore your feedback or fail to internalize it effectively, you may be tempted to discipline them instead of investigating the issue at its source. The fact is that if your feedback seems to fall on deaf ears, it’s up to you to change your message. You can’t just keep telling people the same things and expect different results. As a leader, it is your job to craft communications in ways that connect with your audience.
  5. “Am I just too comfortable with the status quo?” Organizationally speaking, it is often extremely difficult to make changes to the status quo. Leaders tend to get comfortable with “the way things are” regardless of how unproductive or even toxic things have become. If you want to improve the flow of feedback within your organization, you need to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. Changing the culture of your organization will not be easy. But the process will be much simpler when you confront your comfort levels with the status quo.

Making Changes

Now that you have checked in with yourself and the state of your organization, you can start making changes that improve the flow of feedback.

Here are some suggestions that can ease the process:

#1 – Do It Now

In order to make feedback a continuous conversation, you must voice it immediately in the relevant moment. It’s not about waiting for the right time or putting it off until it’s time for performance evaluations. Feedback needs to be conveyed in the moment so your people can take appropriate action. If you wait, its impact will decrease, and it will become much less relevant. Of course, there will be times when it is not appropriate to give feedback, but the sooner you can let people know your thoughts, the better.

#2 – Make It About the Little Things

Many managers focus their feedback on the big picture, which is certainly useful, but sometimes they fail to focus on smaller, day-to-day concerns. The goal is to create a culture where feedback flows continuously, so I advise adding more granular, daily feedback to your employees’ diets. Again, it’s not smart to wait or to only give big-picture feedback. Making it a normal part of everyday work is one of the best ways to normalize the process and make it a part of your culture.

#3 – Remember to Strike the Right Balance

Employees who hear constant praise tend to play it safe, only doing what they know will continue to get them more praise. On the other hand, those who hear constant criticism tend to feel alienated and uninspired. It is up to you to strike the right balance with your people. And you cannot expect what works for one person to work for everyone else; your feedback balance will have to be formulated for each individual. 

#4 – Offer Ways to Improve

Regardless of whether your feedback has been positive or constructive, it is crucial that you offer your people avenues to improvement. Don’t just tell them that they are doing a great job; tell them what they can do to be even better. Don’t just tell them that they need to do better; let them know what steps they can take to get there.

#5 – Ask Questions and Listen!

Even though you are in a leadership position, your role is not about commanding orders through a megaphone and expecting fully compliant excellence. Leadership is about stoking the fire of communication so that it continues to flow throughout the organization. Feedback should include questions like, “what do you like about this?” or, “why did you decide to do it this way?” And when you ask questions, it is your duty to listen to what the answers are. Finally, you must be open to receiving feedback yourself. Ask your people how they think you’re doing. Find out if they have what they need from you. Find ways to have them share the pros and cons of your leadership. Then you can act in ways that let your people know you are there for them. Doing so will improve communication considerably, while driving engagement upward.

Need More Help with the Flow of Feedback in Your Organization?

The flow of feedback within your organization can be improved if you take the right approach as a leader, but it might not be easy for you. And that’s okay! Changing organizational culture is a major task, so it’s understandable if you feel like you cannot do it all alone. The good news is that help is available. I have worked with countless organizations as a coach and leadership-development expert, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to assist leaders like you in making positive, lasting changes to workplace cultures. I believe strongly in the power of open, two-way communication, and I want to help you make your organization a place where feedback is a highly valued currency.

Interested in learning more? Let’s talk! Please send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or give me a call at 1.855.871.3374.

Ready to partner with LeadersEdge to drive organizational performance?

connect with us