Want to build a stronger communication culture? Feedback is the answer.

As companies look for and test different approaches to replacing the traditional performance evaluation, they’re embracing effective two-way feedback skills and creating cultures that support their stated values. Leaders can model the process with behaviors that teach, encourage and demonstrate how everyone can learn and grow each week.

A road map for giving feedback is essential to every leader’s toolbox. When you need to deliver challenging or corrective feedback, there’s nothing better than a process that works for you time and time again. After all, isn’t that what we do in other situations? For example, you have a problem or misunderstanding with a customer or client. You retrace your steps or outline the problem, look for additional information and have a conversation to learn more and come to a resolution. Using the same approach with giving feedback allows you to learn, practice and develop your own managerial style.

Effective feedback can increase any one of the following:

  1. Employee productivity
  2. Employee morale
  3. Employee comprehension of company purpose and goals
  4. Employee retention
  5. Employee ability and willingness to communicate with managers/supervisors

I had the opportunity to have a successful performance discussion even when the initial conversation was not that positive. We were working on a complex transition project and the manager, Chris, had not followed through on several specific goals to which he had agreed. I was surprised by the news that the tasks not only had not been done, they had not even been initiated!

Flabbergasted, I scheduled a time to discuss the gap and how we might recover. In preparing for the conversation, I discovered that I was curious about the reason he had not completed the tasks. When asked, Chris told me that there was a component of the software we were using that he didn’t understand. He had put off the training for weeks and then when he decided to bite the bullet and register for the class, there were no openings. Realizing he was now in a pickle, he started cramming to try and learn the specifics so that he could complete his tasks. And, boy was he stuck. He couldn’t learn without help and he was too embarrassed to ask for it. So to avoid the conversation, he worked on other pieces of the project—and completed them perfectly!

As we discussed the situation, he did not try to blame others, or me. And thank goodness I didn’t go down a negative path either. He realized he had made a bad decision to not sign up for the training—that was the real issue. What resulted was a wonderful discussion about time management, skill development and being a part of a team. We then set out to address how to meet our project goals.

I think he learned a great deal from that encounter and I certainly know that I did. I could have jumped right into the problem, venting about how this could jeopardize our project and how he was to blame. Thankfully, I used one of our process steps to be curious and understand from his perspective.

Every step of the feedback process sends signals that the culture of your organization is changing, becoming more open and innovative. Feedback is an important part of a collaborative and productive culture and for feedback to be effective, it must be delivered on a personal level.

After we completed the project, Chris attended the training he had avoided and continued to grow into a highly respected team member who is known for technical skills and became the “go-to” person because he never missed a deadline.

A “feedback culture” builds morale and retention, improving your organization’s culture even more.

Written by Marjorie Mauldin for CW Magazine.