Creating a Feedback Culture

For me, leadership in organisations comes down to 2 things:

Relationships and Conversations

When leaders do both well, build trusting relationships with people around them by having the right conversations, the positive impact on team members is substantial. Creating a Feedback Culture will help your people to be more productive and happier.

Giving good feedback is a process. It’s a little bit like when you talk to your children, when you explain to them how their actions have consequences. In leadership, it’s not so dissimilar. Leaders don’t give enough feedback and not often enough, and not well. Statistics show that 75% of people leave their workplace because of lack of feedback. In fact, bad feedback is still better than giving no feedback.

I coached a client of mine who was struggling with giving critical feedback, which means he avoided feedback altogether The result was that he had a very low retention rate in his team. We talked through a new process of giving feedback. This helped him to motivate his team members, and the feedback helped his team to make necessary changes and improve performance. People are much happier at work when you give them feedback. They are more likely to leave the organisation when they don’t get feedback. Good feedback is a process.

Practical Framework

There’s a fantastic model called SBI – Situation – Behaviour – Impact.

Situation: be specific about the situation, when, who, where
Behaviour: describe the behaviour you observed
Impact: point out what impact the behaviour had

Using this framework makes the process of feedback much less personal because you don’t attack the person. You simply explain the situation, the behaviour, and the impact. With that, you can, together with your team member, work on a solution, or you can ask them how they would solve the problem.

A few tips:

• Consistency: giving feedback often and giving feedback well, will help your team members to improve, be happy and stay.
• Immediately: when you give feedback, make sure that you do so right away. Otherwise it doesn’t seem relevant
• Privacy: give critical feedback in private, not in front of other people
• Balance: constructive feedback is just as important as positive feedback. Make sure you praise your team members (for effort, not ability)

The 2-way Road

Creating a feedback culture requires more than just giving good feedback. It’s also important to ask for feedback and encourage your team members to do so also. When you ask your team members for feedback (e.g. how they think the structure of the team meetings are working etc.) it shows them that you are interested in their opinion which empowers them. It also shows your buy-in into feedback and you lead by example. And not to forget that the feedback you get often helps you to improve your own processes or work. For example, I always ask for feedback after my leadership workshops to be able to improve both, content and how I facilitate. Here are simple steps to ask for feedback:

1. Ask for feedback overtly. Be specific what you want feedback on
2. Thank people for their feedback
3. Return the favour
4. Be objective when getting feedback
5. Commit to changes you agree on implementing

Feedback Culture

Creating a Feedback Culture is more than adopting a model and giving good feedback yourself. Changing a culture means changing conversations across the board where people develop the habit of giving and receiving feedback consistently. It will become part of your company’s DNA. There are few areas to consider:

Create trust:
It has to be clear to people that feedback is a positive influencing tool to improve processes and behaviour. I suggest you start at the top of your team or organisation where feedback is role-modelled consistently. People need to feel that feedback is a normal part of day-to-day conversations amongst ALL team members. Ensure that people are trained (SBI) and that feedback is part of 360 reviews. If feedback is used to demote people, trust will be lost. Use balanced feedback.

Feedback DNA:
Giving feedback is more than just following a process. It’s not about telling someone to do (or omit) something but in a certain way. Feedback Culture means you use apply other behaviours as well: Observe, Ask, Empathy, EQ, SBI, Coach.

Ed Batista shares 4 crucial areas of creating a feedback culture in this HBR article:

Creating feedback-rich culture takes time and involves everyone in your organisation but starting with teaching your managers/leaders to use the SBI model and encourage them to use consistent feedback is a good start.

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Jessica Schubert

Jessica Schubert is a Leadership Expert, Executive Coach, Facilitator, Author and Speaker. She is obsessed with helping people realise their potential and unlock their inner genius.

Born in Cologne, Germany, Jessica has travelled the world and has spent more than 20 years leading cross-cultural teams in competitive markets throughout Europe and the Asia Pacific. As she worked with and coached her own diverse, cross-cultural teams, she came to realise that learning about yourself and developing interpersonal skills is the most powerful tool to lead and influence people around you.

In 2013 she launched Intact Teams, where she and her team have worked with thousands of leaders in organisations worldwide, delivering custom-designed leadership programs and workshops. These interactive and engaging programs are offered both virtually and in-person, helping leaders and their teams succeed in a complex and ever-changing business environment.

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Jessica Schubert