What ever happened to real feedback at work?

While the vast majority of companies have “feedback” in their lexicon, whenever I talk to leaders, a lot of the time it’s just going through the motions, a thing “we just have to do”, or even worse, something people dread – and I have never understood why.

So, when we had our first feedback at work session a little over a month ago, we made the conscious decision to tweak some of the practices that  the “experts” on the internet recommended. Our mission? To really own the session, make it personal and valuable, and to give it a fun, fuckup style – like only we could.

Building an  atmosphere of transparency, and creating a space where we all felt we could be vulnerable encouraged us to trust and share our thoughts openly, providing real, candid, and (hopefully) valuable feedback to another person.

So let me share with you some of the tweaks we made that I think really helped make this activity successful:

How do you set up the session?

With this session, each team member was responsible for giving feedback to one other person on the team, and typically, it was someone outside of their immediate department (so someone from the communications team giving feedback to someone on the operations team, for example).

We chose to set it up like this with the idea that someone who’s not too close to the day-to-day might identify areas of opportunity that someone on that team might not see because they’re in the weeds.

It’s almost like a  “secret santa” activity – no one knows before the session who is going to be giving them feedback. After a person receives feedback, it’s then their turn to give feedback to someone else, keeping a chain going until everyone has given and received feedback.

How should we give Feedback?

Our formula was to first tell the person one thing that we think they’re really good at, or something about them that inspires or amazes us. Then, we’d tell them one area they could improve – with the intention of giving a valuable and actionable piece of advice.

And really, what helped make this work were some of our values – “be 1% better each day”, “have the difficult conversations”, and always “act from a place of love”.

These values, and connecting them to the exercise, helped guide that line of what people’s feedback should look like, and how we should go about it.

The important part however, wasn’t just to talk about an area they could improve, but to also provide a resource to help that person improve it. It could be a book recommendation, a habit that’s helped you in that area, or some other practice that could help. Our thought process was if you’re only describing a problem. you’re not really helping a lot.

And when we ran the session like this, something magical happened. No one felt sore about the feedback, or inferior, or unworthy. Instead there was a shared sense of empathy and respect, and the realization that the person that was giving you feedback, was, like you, in the same battle to improve themself.

I think the most valuable insight however, is how much you learn about the team, and how they can complement each other when you set  mission to personal growth, and not competition.

At the end of the day, everyone fucks things up, everyone has their super power and their Kryptonite – but, everyone should try to be 1% better each day.

And true, honest feedback is how to make it happen.

Eric Jimenez

Eric Jimenez

Business Development LatAm

Founder of a failed consulting agency that helped companies create more relaxing and healthier work spaces. Currently working at Fuckup Inc. as Business Development LatAm, bringing the Fuckup Nights antidote to corporations around the world. Collaborates with the Culture Collective team in Mexico. Loves deep conversations, random questions, playing tennis. Hates vegetables.

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