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What really separates high performing organizations from low performing organizations? Good research has helped us answer this question. In high performing organizations, you see strong leadership, clear purpose and passion, quality products or services, a focus on what matters the most, and an overall culture of excellence.
When I say culture, I'm referring to the collective values, vision, norms, language, beliefs, and symbols that define your organization. Together, these things describe the unique nature of working in your company. Culture might sound a little odd to get your hands around. It's about shared perceptions and beliefs, so it's not as easy to measure as say, sales. Nonetheless, culture at work has been studied by scholars for decades, and is well known to affect the way people in groups interact with each other, with clients, and with other stakeholders.
Building a high performance culture begins by building a culture that embraces feedback. Very often, people think of feedback as an interpersonal process. Well, it is, and for most of this course, we'll discuss aspects of engaging feedback successfully. However, we need to start by seeing the big picture. So let's be clear when I refer to feedback culture, I don't want you to think of a culture that supports simple criticism. In a criticism culture, the motivation of the speaker is to point out a flaw, to make known their disagreement.
Or in some cases, to intentionally cause a problem for whomever they're criticizing. This is an extreme form of honesty that is rude and very unproductive. In cultures where criticism is regularly supported, you can expect lower engagement, lower productivity, and lower loyalty. A culture of feedback is wildly different than one that supports lots of criticism. In a feedback culture, the speaker is honestly concerned about your professional growth. They want what's best for you when they decide to deliver feedback.
And they're thoughtful about when and how to deliver feedback to minimize the odds that it causes any friction. The intention is to help others by engaging difficult but needed critical conversations. In a high-performance culture, feedback often serves as real-time accountability. People err on having conversations now, speaking up when needed, instead of biting their tongue and saying nothing. People in lower-performing cultures fear receiving feedback, whereas people in higher-performing cultures fear not receiving needed feedback.
Win or lose, they want to know how they're being perceived, and they want to improve. Here are three important things to remember about feedback as an important part of organizational culture. First, it all begins with a top leadership team. This is a classic example of leaders needing to model the way. You can't simply say you want the company to embrace the use of feedback. You have to do so yourself. This means that leaders must sometimes step out of their comfort zones and be open to feedback.
They often use 360 programs, town hall meetings, and open door policies. Whatever the method, the employees will want to see leadership walking the talk. Next, it's vital that funds are allocated for training all supervisors about the effective use of feedback. They need exposure to why feedback matters. The difference between criticism and feedback, and the feedback process. Part of this training should include the explicit expectation that they will model this behavior. They need to understand that in a high performance culture, their promotabilty is partially determined by how effective they are at using feedback to develop others.
Finally some good news, giving feedback is a skill, and a skill is something anyone can learn with the right effort. It takes time, but when leaders model the way and appropriate training is put in place, it won't be long before criticism fades and the friction surrounding critical discussion becomes minimal. The effective use of feedback is one of the cornerstones of high-performing teams and organizations. Learning to truly embrace feedback can take months for a team, or maybe even a year for an organization. But the effort is worth it, because in time, frank exchanges can in fact become a positive and expected behavioral norm.
And that's when morale and productivity are strengthened.
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