We need to throw ‘Feedback Cultures’ in the bin and create ‘Learning Cultures’August 22, 2019
What is it about ‘feedback’? No one seems to like the term or how it’s done, and even fewer people seem to like giving it. The image in many organisations appears to be a detritus of people strewn along the corridors, feeling bruised, unseen or undervalued, lying under the weight of ‘performance discussion template documents’ that they filled in. High performers leave because of lack of stretch, underperformers are allowed to continue on their merry way, and those of us doing a good job, but open to being even better, are not given a safe environment to explore those insights.
Imagine if you lived in a culture where instead of having a ‘feedback culture’, you had a ‘learning culture’? One where everyone was committed to be constantly learning about their work, their clients and their impact. Instead of fearfully waiting for the dreaded ‘performance’ talk, every day had great discussions about what was on track and what needed work (that’s where great feedback lies!), what was stretching us and where were we nailing it? If we want to work with agility and responsively, we need to know our impact. We can’t if insights are not shared regularly and robustly – as a matter of team routine.
But we don’t. Unless we’ve been committed to building a learning culture in our teams, the status quo is that we quietly worry that we don’t look good enough or smart enough. We hide our vulnerability by not talking about the challenges we’re having – especially not with our bosses.
And the sad thing is – that lack of courage to share what we need help with is really hurting us. It’s hurting the team, our own growth, and our progress.
How Do We Do IT?
Feedback IS a key element of a learning culture, but it is a part of a much bigger piece – including self-reflection, exploring possibilities, analysis of impact and coaching. There are three key things we need to cultivate as leaders in teams to create a dynamic learning environment:
A mindset that says ‘I am always open to influence, learning from others and being curious about how I work’. It’s also about leaders modeling their own vulnerabilities and being firmly seen as a lead learner. Tapping into the collective of the team creates openness and learning just by having more collaborative discussions about our challenges. A team that openly discusses how to create a collective learning mindset and regularly checks in on it promotes a health check on a growth mindset.
A psychologically safe space for people to put the vulnerabilities of their work and their capabilities out for support, input and insight. This space encourages people to take risks and step outside their comfort zones, knowing people have got their backs. Much of this is based on the quality of our language as leaders and our tonality – curious not judging, treating people as partners in the conversations about growth. Compel people to be even better and work with you, don’t repel. For more thinking about this, see Be A Ninja At Challenging Thinking and Building Psychological Safety
Talking – and listening, about the right stuff – what the work is and how we can do it differently, better, stronger. This creates a team that firmly sees itself as a learning team. The biggest thing missing for low-performance teams is a discussion on how we do the work. ‘What are we not talking about’ is an interesting reflection for teams. Ask inquiry questions of a team rather than telling them. For more thinking about this, see my blog on Instead of Sending Out an Agenda, How About Posing An Inquiry Question?
So please throw ‘feedback’ in the bin and talk about ‘growth’ and ‘learning’ instead.
Tracey Ezard is a Melbourne-based consultant that focuses on leadership and learning the culture. She is a keynote speaker, author, and educator. Mentoring organisations of varied industries, Tracey works with leaders and teams to improve collaborative cultures in large, and often multifaceted, workplace communities. Change is inevitable for every business model, and through innovation and deep communication, Tracey brings leaders and their teams on a journey to engagement by creating an energy buzz.
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