Implementing a feedback culture

Implementing a Feedback Culture

Working with leaders across the globe for the last 20 years it very often strikes us how difficult it seems to be to use one of the most powerful tools that leaders have in their toolbox to enable performance. Feedback is essential for fast development and growth of people and organisations and the best thing of all its free of charge.

This article will provide you with some thoughts, ideas, and practical tips on how to implement a feedback culture in your organisation.

However, it is impossible to describe a process where one size fits all since the as-is culture in the organisation very much sets the baseline for where and how to start or how to continue the journey.

The “Why” needs to be clear

When working with feedback it is essential that everyone understands what the purpose of the feedback is. Why it is so important to invest time and effort in establishing a feedback culture and most important of all, WIIFM – What’s in it for me. The purpose may be multi-faceted or more aimed at a particular effect, but nevertheless it must be clear to all involved.

The different purposes of Feedback:

1. Helping people to develop

2. Ensuring people are employable, both now and in the future

3. Improving productivity

4. Ensuring people live our values

5. Rewarding productive behaviour

6. Creating a performance culture

7. Ensuring you are a winning organisation in the future

8. Getting along better

………. What is your why?

Setting clear expectations

An organisation that is not clear about its expectations with their leaders, teams and employees will find it very difficult to implement a feedback culture. Why? Because developing feedback will be more comprehensive if it’s related to an ambition, direction or expected outcome.

Giving feedback without having a clear framework will easily end up in discussions about why it is important or with unengaged and detached employees. Therefore, to implement a successful feedback culture, it will help if you first ensure that you have a goal/target setting process in place including team as well as individual targets/ambitions.

Share the essentials on how to give feedback

It’s essential that all employees need to learn the basics on how to give feedback and what to give feedback about to support the development process.
The SBI (Situation, Impact, Behaviour) model is commonly used to frame the process in a useful way, and it also helps people to understand how to relate feedback back to an expected outcome or impact.

Different people need different kinds of feedback – Whether you use MBTI, DISC or any other tool to help your people understand different needs and personality traits, it is the key to helping leaders understand that feedback needs to come with different wrappings and in different shapes.

Only give feedback about things that you think the person could do something about and that you honestly believe the person will benefit from, and remember to always ask the question, “Would you like to have feedback?” before starting to give feedback. This to ensure that the individual has the capacity to take onboard feedback at that stage.

Feedback Stages

Feedback cultures don’t die out because people don’t want to give feedback, they often die because of the inability to receive feedback. How people tend to respond to feedback is well illustrated in the feedback stages. A very common behaviour is the “Defend” stage where (even when you give positive feedback) you get answers which are defensive, like – “That was nothing ….. You only needed to say thank you…”

The point is, if people always defend or make defensive comments when receiving feedback people will stop giving them feedback.


Problem? What problem?


No! You don’t understand!


Yes, but here’s why…


Oh, I see what you mean!


Here’s what I’ll do…

You could try to see feedback as a gift.

If people come to your house for dinner, they sometimes bring a gift, a bottle of wine, flowers or something else they found in a gift store. What do you normally say when you get it? Most likely “Thank you.”

If you don’t like the gift you still most likely say “Thank you” instead of starting to comment on the fact that they have misunderstood your taste in wine or that you don’t like yellow flowers, because if that would be the case people would probably stop bringing you gifts!

The point is the same goes with feedback. See it as gift! Some feedback you might like and put on the “table”, some you don’t like and disregard (or regift them) and some is of the kind that you put in your cupboard and bring it out when your friend comes back for a visit. Out of 10 gifts you might get one that you keep for life.

All feedback you get can’t be perfect…. You need to accept 10 that might not be so useful to ensure you get the gift of your life that will help you see things in a completely new light.

Build the training camp

You can’t be good at something from day one, so the question is what will your training camp look like. How will you practise? Here are a few concrete tips:

  • Integrate feedback into day-to-day activities. Make it into a habit to recognise people’s achievements on a daily basis.
  • Ask for feedback yourself to role-model.
  • A discussion that could be high on the agenda for every meeting is the sharing of success stories. Now and then add a failure experience and discuss what you have learned. Reinforcing successful behaviours and learning from mistakes shapes a feedback culture in an effective way.
  • End meetings with 2 questions “What did we do well today” and “What can we improve to next time?”
  • Start each meeting with what we should achieve today. End the meeting with what have we achieved.

The possibilities to practise feedback are endless both on a team and individual level

Increase the frequency

Start small and increase the frequency instead of the opposite. Very often organisations do very ambitious programs over a period 2-3 months and don’t have a plan for what follows.

Instead plan for 2-3 years where you gradually nudge the organisation step-by-step towards a better place.

Ensure you know the people around you that benefit from regular feedback and the people who prefer more space between the feedback moments.

Use feedback tools to measure the progress

A good way to support the implementation process within the organisation is to use feedback tools like the Insights For You 360 app.

This makes is faster and easier to gather feedback for your personal development from many sources. It’s also sometimes easier for people to give feedback through a tool rather than face-to-face, especially in the beginning when introducing feedback to the organisation.

Using feedback tools makes it easy to measure improvement and create a starting point, but also measures progress step-by-step.

The “What gets measured – gets done” principle is also true for the people process.

Written by Peter Lysell