The Best Frameworks for Building a Feedback Culture

Studies show that everything about feedback is stressful. We are social creatures, and when we perceive the threat of conflict, we react in a multitude of strange ways. We won’t go into detail on that, but suffice it to say that none of them necessarily make for great work interactions. Both internally and with customers, it’s important to foster a healthy relationship with feedback, and not just for social reasons. Honest, constructive, and tactfully delivered input from your colleagues and customers will also reduce the likelihood of churn and strengthen relationships that can lead to revenue. 

While we’re talking science, it’s also proven that actively asking your colleagues and customers for input on your work is a great way to help negate the stress than can come with unsolicited feedback. In their blog post ‘How to Take Feedback Well as an Employee’, people development platform Reflektive writes, “Learning how to take constructive criticism offers an important lesson: mistakes are not failures, but opportunities to improve. Everyone makes mistakes on the job. Not everyone knows how to take feedback and use it to improve their careers.” 
So there you have it: the choice to get defensive or get better. Theoretically, it should be an easy choice, but that by no means makes it easy in practice. At Go Nimbly, we use a variety of tools and frameworks to guide us in both giving and receiving feedback in the ways that will be most productive. For real time feedback between colleagues, the AID framework—which stands for Action, Impact, Do—offers a helpful structure. 
First, it’s important to discuss the action; that is, whatever was done that impacted either others on the team, external players, or customers. That action is the catalyst for the feedback, and it needs to be clearly stated to make sure everyone is on the same page as you begin with the framework. However, you should make sure to focus on objective realities, as opposed to your interpretation or emotional reaction. Accusatory or overly emotional language and tone can result in defensiveness and an unwillingness to listen. 
Next, you will need to discuss the impact of the action—whatever effect the initial behavior or choice had on you, as well the others involved in the project. Let other people speak for themselves here, as opposed to making assumptions and accusations. This is followed by constructive suggestions on how someone can perform better next time, or what they can change to improve the outcome of similar situations in the future. This type of feedback should be given as soon as possible, and making it a part of regular retrospectives is a great way to help people get used to the process and become more open to it over time. 
Another framework useful for coaching sessions is the GROW model. Originally developed by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore in the ’80s, this framework goes more in depth than AID, facilitating a one-on-one analysis of what your core goal is and how best to achieve it. 
Notably, this type of feedback is much more collaborative and tactical in nature. Using GROW, colleagues with different areas of expertise can come together and solve tricky problems, align on company goals or interdepartmental projects, and to drive initiatives forward. This allows teams to not only finish revenue impacting projects more quickly, but to learn how to work through problems methodically and efficiently, any time they come up. 
Another way to encourage positive feedback—which is just as important in an organization, if not more so, than constructive feedback—is to use gamification. Having a dedicated Slack channel just for shoutouts, or using a Slack app like HeyTaco, not only motivates people to give positive feedback, but can also make receiving feedback so commonplace that it becomes a little less stressful outside the safety of a happy Slack channel. 
The takeaway here is to do whatever works best for your company, but finding ways to incorporate productive feedback day-to-day will make for increased self awareness, motivation, and stronger relationships across the board. 
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