How to create a culture of feedback in the workplace

Posted July 20, 2017 by Mihca Anderson — Director of People Development. Filed under Company.

“If I’m failing in my work, please don’t tell me” said no employee ever.

We are creatures who crave feedback. We’re continually scanning our environment for small signs that tell us whether or not we’re doing the right things in the right ways. Did that car in front of me just tap their brakes so I would back off? Did the smoke alarm go off because I left my grilled cheese on the stove for too long? Did my colleague pick up his cell phone because he doesn’t find this content valuable?

We’re looking for information that allows us to course correct, go faster or slower, grow ourselves, and celebrate our successes. Employees don’t show up for work hoping to fail or deliver mediocre results. At Qumulo, we believe everyone wants to do their best and make an impact on the business. If we hold this sentiment as Truth, then it means that our employees need data to gauge their progress on those axes.

Feedback data drives progress and impact

Enter feedback. The people around us carry a unique perspective on any given topic, including our work and how we do it. Everyone’s always got an opinion, right? If we think of these unique perspectives simply as a data point, it allows us to offer and receive feedback more freely. Remember, we believe everyone wants to be awesome here. We don’t spend hours preparing for a meeting hoping that it completely goes sideways. So if it does go sideways, we trust that our colleagues want to understand what happened and what they can do differently next time.

This is the foundation of our feedback culture. We spend a lot of time coaching, encouraging, training, and reinforcing. We’re not yet universally great at this. Being on either end of feedback can be challenging, uncomfortable, and risky. What if we damage the working relationship? What if they think I’m doing a terrible job? Who am I to give them feedback? What if they don’t want to hear my feedback? Who the heck is this guy to give me feedback? The questions are limitless yet very limiting.

So we coach and we train employees at all levels to craft honest, helpful feedback. In our workshops, we play with a framework for clarifying, constructing, and sharing feedback so that it lands with the receiver and opens up a dialogue. We’re starting to offer workshops focused on receiving feedback that utilize some of the concepts in Doug Stone and Sheila Heen’s book, Thanks for the Feedback. In the meantime, we offer 1:1 coaching to help employees process the feedback they’ve received and find something of value in it (no matter how much they might disagree).

Feedback across the company and within teams

Many of our teams have implemented feedback speed dating to encourage a regular cadence of feedback. What I love about this is that it implicitly creates permission to grow each other and air our relationship tensions. No more “waiting for the right time” to have a conversation or sitting on feedback because you don’t think it’s your job to give it. We also run feedback pulses to collect data points across the company. This is another feedback pull mechanism where you invite your colleagues to highlight your wins and strengths and offer their perspective on your growth opportunities.

We approach feedback from all sorts of angles. We skill up our employees through training and coaching, we use Reflektive to facilitate 360s and feedback pulses, we run feedback speed dating sessions, and we challenge each other constantly to share our data points, even when it’s uncomfortable.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch our employees flex their feedback muscles. It’s often resulted in a better understanding between colleagues, a revealing of expectations, or a general alleviation of tension in a working relationship. Everyone wants to do their best and make an impact… what feedback do you need to give today to help someone achieve this?

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Mihca Anderson
Director of People Development
It's been incredibly rewarding to see our team make feedback and collaboration such a focus. It confirms that at Qumulo, everyone wants to do their best work.

As the Director of People Development, Mihca's major focus is on supporting and developing humans and as such, and she spends a fair bit of my time in 1-1 coaching sessions to help Qumulons find clarity and purpose and often to get unstuck.

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