Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. – Meister Eckhart
Our individual feedback orientation, and its relationship to the feedback culture in which we work, has a profound impact on self-awareness, self-confidence and job performance.
Feedback orientation refers to our personal receptivity to feedback, our comfort seeking it out, and our tendency to process it mindfully. Feedback culture refers to organizational support for feedback including behaviorally focused reference points, coaching and support for clear development toward valued outcomes.
In a recent study titled Feedback Orientation, Feedback Culture and the Longitudinal Performance Management Process, London and Smither explore the intricate relationship between the individual and the organization when it comes to feedback. When organizations develop a healthy feedback culture, individuals thrive in the process.
What is your feedback orientation?
Take a moment to think about your personal relationship to feedback. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest, rate yourself on the following aspects of Feedback Orientation:
- I have overall positive feelings about feedback including a low apprehension about being evaluated.
- I tend to seek feedback willingly
- I process feedback mindfully and deeply
- I believe in the value of feedback and that it offers insights that may make me more personally effective.
- I feel accountable to act on feedback I am given
My total out of 50 =
If your score is below 25, your feedback orientation may be one of resistance and may lean more toward what Dweck calls a Performance mindset , versus a growth or benefit mindset. You may see feedback as threatening and harmful to self-confidence.
If your score is 25 and above, your feedback orientation is one of growth and you see feedback as an opportunity to learn. Your experience of feedback is one of curiosity, reflection and introspection.
Our relationship to feedback, our feedback orientation, can lend insight into self-confidence and job satisfaction. Those with a stronger feedback orientation and higher self-confidence are more resilient and will look for ways to overcome negative feedback. Conversely, the weaker the feedback orientation, the less resilient one is to feedback and the more jarring and surprising the process becomes. The good news is our feedback orientation can develop and get stronger. Our orientation to feedback is not a fixed state and therefore the more we pay attention to it, the more active the relationship becomes and the more opportunity we have for growth.
As leaders, one of the most powerful factors contributing to an individual’s feedback orientation is the feedback culture that surrounds them.
How would your rate the Feedback Culture currently in your organization?
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest, and 10 being the highest, rate the following statements:
- Individuals in my organization continuously receive, solicit, and use formal and informal feedback to improve job performance.
- We have effective policies and programs for performance management, continuous learning, and career development.
- The feedback culture supports learning in both frequency and delivery.
- Our organization provides training for employees and management about how to provide useful feedback.
- I am clear about our performance measurements and how feedback helps me achieve my individual performance goals.
The total out of 50 =
If your organization scored below 25, perhaps there is not enough organizational support for continuous learning and a strong, positive feedback culture has not been institutionalized yet. The good news is that even if the organization does not have the processes and culture in place, with a strong individual feedback orientation, you can influence those in your sphere by creating an environment that supports the on-going use of feedback to enhance performance.
If your organization scored above 25, your company has policies and support in place to encourage the seeking, application, and processing of meaningful feedback. A strong feedback culture supports not just the feedback event, but the process of applying the information over time. Strong feedback cultures are supportive of both formal and informal feedback procedures and feedback is freely given and received outside of formal cycles.
The feedback orientation of an individual is intimately related to the strength of the feedback culture and so, as leaders, both must be taken into account.
Building a strong feedback culture means having a strong and flexible performance management system in place, including time for: anticipating, receiving and reacting to feedback, processing the feedback, and using the feedback. While the performance management system is central to a strong feedback culture, one of the key elements is evidence of informal feedback. When individuals seek and process feedback in meaningful ways it shows there is a safe environment to grow and work toward benefitting the whole. Informal feedback exchanges mean people are choosing to participate versus only demonstrating willingness during formal processes. When I work in teams and organizations where the informal feedback culture is strong, I find more self-aware leaders and more high-performing teams.
As London and Smither conclude:
Feedback orientation and culture influence receptivity to feedback and the extent to which feedback is sought, valued, and used. Feedback involves repeating, multi-stage cycles. Receiving, interpreting, and applying feedback occur in each cycle and affect succeeding cycles. Individuals’ reactions and behaviors vary at each stage of the cycle… Over time, multiple performance management cycles may enhance the individual’s feedback orientation and create a feedback culture that enhances performance improvement and career development.
Feedback is an active, on-going process not an event. It takes time and can be difficult to face especially during critical events. Feedback, as a fluid and integral part of the air we breathe, will make us stronger in our personal orientation and contribute to the strength of the culture in the organizations we lead.
I leave you with a question I believe is central to developing a strong feedback orientation but equally as powerful in maintaining a strong culture of feedback:
Do you listen with the will to learn?
If you would like to talk further about this or wish to receive a copy of the full research paper, click here.