Why asking for feedback is one of the best ways to create a feedback culture
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
When we think about feedback, we tend to think about the process of giving or receiving it. We think about how to approach the conversation, how to phrase feedback, how to take it on once it’s given to you. But what about the process of asking for feedback? Feedback is not one sided, it's a conversation. A conversation best started with a question. It turns out that individuals asking for feedback is one of the most powerful ways to create a feedback culture.
Why is it important to develop a feedback culture?
Feedback is one of the best ways to help growth - whether you are a team member or a leader. By asking for and receiving feedback, you gain a better understanding of your strengths and your areas of growth. This helps you channel a growth mindset, which is the best mindset for development.
On the flipside, the costs of not sharing feedback are significant: 40% of us are actively disengaged when we don’t receive feedback on our work.
Developing a culture of feedback within our team is a process and the benefits will be seen across the entire team over time. For it to work, the responsibility comes from both sides of the conversation: the giver and the receiver of the feedback.
Isn’t it enough for managers to just give more feedback?
The short answer is no. Neuroscience research shows that one of the most effective ways to build a feedback culture is to get everyone asking for more feedback across the entire team - up, down, sideways. This is due to three main reasons.
1. The feedback is more valuable to the asker
Have you ever experienced feeling hurt or defensive when someone gives you constructive feedback? The reason this happens is when feedback is given to us it can trigger our fight or flight response. Especially if we are not prepared to hear it. The feedback is perceived as a threat, which makes it harder for us to listen to it. So we will either fight it (become defensive) or go into flight (change the subject/ leave the conversation).
When we ask for feedback, this threat is lowered as we feel more in control of the situation. We have lowered the level of threat. So instead of rejecting the feedback, we make space in our mind to accept and process it.
2. When we start asking for feedback, it is easier for the giver
Sometimes we have useful feedback to give, that could truly help someone’s development, yet we hesitate to give it. Often because we don't want to hurt the other person’s feelings. If we deliver feedback that is unwanted, it is a threat to our social status. When asked to share, the giver can focus on being an equal partner of the conversation, rather than worrying about how it comes across.
3. If we ask, we are more likely to receive feedback
If we keep asking and encouraging feedback, we are more likely to continue receiving it. It becomes a habit and it helps us continue to improve. A feedback culture is created!
So what is the best approach when asking for feedback?
1. Be specific
Have you ever asked someone, 'do you have any feedback for me?' and they say “um, no not really”. It can be a challenge to think of feedback with no context.
What can be useful is asking for feedback on something specific, for example: ‘How did I facilitate that client meeting?’ ‘What do you think about the introduction of this proposal?’. This sets clearer expectations to both parties and prepares our brain to process the information. Which further reduces the chance of our brain rejecting the feedback
It is even more effective to let the other person know in advance that you would appreciate feedback on a specific area so that they are primed and can prepare.
2. Focus on the growth opportunity
When asking for feedback, help channel the growth mindset by framing it as a development opportunity. Think to yourself, why do I want this feedback at all? What do I stand to gain? For example: ‘I would love to receive feedback on the presentation I am giving tomorrow as I am currently working on improving my public speaking skills.’ You are putting yourself in a growth mindset before even receiving feedback, making you more open and positive to hearing it.
3. Ask broadly across the team
This allows you to get a range of perspectives and minimise bias. Make a plan of people you could ask. Getting a 360 perspective through feedback is one of the best ways to reduce blind spots and help with your continued growth.
4. Make it a habit
Asking for feedback regularly is the key to getting more feedback shared within the team. Make it a habit to always ask for and share feedback after a meeting, a pitch or a project. Even when it has gone really well - in fact, especially when it has gone well. This is a brilliant opportunity to share positive feedback and the team is more likely to be open to hearing constructive feedback when there has been a success. By doing this, the team can apply learnings straight away and the feedback will be more accurate and motivating. You can think of feedback like brushing your teeth: little and often, rather than leaving it so long you have to get a filling!
Feedback is more valuable to the asker
When we start asking for feedback, it is easier for the giver
Focus on the growth opportunity
Ask broadly across the team
Make it a habit
Asking for feedback is a great first step to develop more of a feedback culture in your team. Creating an environment where everyone asks for feedback empowers the team and puts them in the best mindset for their development. If you are interested in learning more about how to create a feedback culture within your team, please get in touch.