Updated: Dec 20, 2022
To improve, we must understand what isn't working well. This is the basic premise behind feedback and evaluation. Yet simply instituting some form of evaluation without changing the work culture vastly limits potential for improving team performance.
What we need is to transform how individuals think about and engage with feedback and how to set up our businesses and organizations to model and reflect that. Teams with a growth mindset and culture of feedback have better morale and higher success rates. Individuals are more likely to speak up, take on leadership roles, and make the improvements needed to ensure the highest quality teamwork possible.
Changing the Paradigm: Why Feedback Alone Isn't Working
Have you implemented some kind of feedback mechanism at your company and seen little to no change? Perhaps annual reviews and exit interviews have not improved high turnover, or customer/client feedback has not yielded large-scale change. The problem likely lies with the team culture. Many teams (consciously or unconsciously) make it difficult if not impossible for employees to speak up honestly with their own concerns and to hear the concerns of others. This problem is compounded by hierarchy and power dynamics, different cultural norms, and a lack of clarity or trust around the process of feedback.
A culture of feedback is an environment in which individuals speak up and express concerns, offer innovative solutions, and provide opportunities for growth to one another in order to optimize performance. By its very nature this kind of feedback is both vertical and lateral across an organization; it encourages employees at all levels to seek out and offer feedback and support to one another. A manager should be as open and receptive to hearing suggestions for their own growth as they are providing them to those they oversee. But the key here is "receptive." This is where a growth mindset comes into play.
What's Mindset Got to Do With It?
To truly develop a feedback culture it is necessary to cultivate employees' growth mindset: a belief that intelligence and other skills/qualities can be developed through effort. It may sound obvious, but in fact much of American culture and our current systems value a "fixed mindset" over a growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset, we all have innate abilities and talents. Some are smart and some are not, or athletic, and so on. Tracking at schools (where students are put into advanced tracks and remedial tracks) is an example of this mindset in policy. Our judicial system is another example, being more focused on punitive solutions than reform.