How To Unlock The Abilities Of Feedback Culture
How do we give good feedback? What are the guidelines? What type of feedback is appropriate in my organization?
We tend to look elsewhere to understand feedback. We look for structure.
When people operate in closed systems like when playing chess or basketball, there is instant feedback. The structure of feedback is defined in the rules. How many points did you score? How many pieces did you capture?
Did you win?
This is a finite game as defined by James P. Carse. A game defined with the purpose of winning. Unfortunately, in creative and innovative work, good and bad can be subjective. This means giving feedback in an infinite world can be a dangerous and politically difficult situation.
So how do you unlock the abilities of feedback culture and avoid dangerous and politically difficult situations?
You Need A Culture Of Candor
I already broke down how Netflix’s culture has positioned them to be elite innovators. They use a combination of candor, eliminating rules, and building talent density.
Netflix works hard to erase the corporate dogma surrounding feedback like, “Only give feedback when someone asks” or “Praise in public, criticize in private” from their culture.
A culture of candor is essential to giving honest feedback to your peers. But that can be a slippery slope. How and why you give feedback is just as important as the act itself.
Netflix has created its feedback culture using the “4A framework” to address both questions.
Teach Your Givers
Aim to assist
“Feedback must be given with positive intent. Giving feedback in order to get frustration off your chest, intentionally hurting the other person, or furthering your political agenda will not be tolerated.” — Netflix 4A Feedback Guidelines
At Netflix, they make it clear that talented jerks will not be accepted. Psychological safety for the team is one of the most important factors that impact performance. Jerks kill psychological safety.
Aiming to assist is a two-way street. Hastings wants his team to be able to, “tell the emperor when he has no clothes.” The higher up you get in an organization, you tend to receive less feedback. So Netflix trains their managers to ask for feedback in their 1:1s with their staff.
Feedback should be actionable
“Your feedback must focus on what the recipient can do differently.” — Netflix 4A Feedback Guidelines
For feedback to be useful, it makes sense to give someone something they can use.
Teach Your Receivers
Appreciate the feedback
“Your behavior, while you’re getting the feedback is a critical factor. You must show the employee that it’s safe to give feedback by responding to all criticism with gratitude.” — Reed Hastings
Giving the right feedback takes thoughtful consideration, and sometimes courage. Appreciating the feedback and showing gratitude will positively reinforce the effort put in by the giver.
Accept or discard
“You will receive lots of feedback from lots of people at Netflix. You are required to listen and consider all feedback provided. You are not required to follow it. The decision to react to the feedback is entirely up to the recipient.” — Netflix 4A Feedback Guidelines
This is the secret sauce. Empowering the receiver to consider the feedback and do what they wish allows for everyone on the team to start discerning the signal from noise.
What You Unlock
So what do you get when you focus on candor and invest in the giving and receiving relationship of feedback?
Faster feedback loops. The shorter you can make the feedback loops the faster you, your team, and your business can grow.
By engraining feedback into your culture, you are essentially adding rocket fuel to your business.