The other side of client feedback
How to improve the psychological safety of the staff inside your organization
When attempting to build a culture with the requisite psychological safety, you need to utilize feedback most effectively; it can be tempting to focus just on the people from which you're gathering feedback.
"If you do feedback right, the other person also feels cared for, valued and closer to you" - Carole Robin, Feedback Is A Gift, 2013
While maintaining a high level of psychological safety is essential for your organization, building a culture where your staff feels safe to receive feedback is one of the keys to utilizing feedback most effectively.
If your team spends its time worrying about being punished because of the feedback they receive, they are unlikely to be in the right mindset to implement changes that will improve the outcomes of the individuals served.
Here are four suggestions to improve your staff's psychological safety and help you get better outcomes in your feedback endeavors.
Building a growth mindset
One of the biggest challenges with psychological safety is dealing with the fear of failure. Many individuals are afraid that the repercussions of organizational failures will cause them to be viewed in a negative light.
Cultivating a culture where failures are opportunities to improve increases the likelihood the individuals will feel safe to discuss areas where they have come up short.
Only 23% of employees believe that their organizations encourage them to learn from failure. - McKinsey, Leadership and Innovation, 2008
This type of culture is commonly called a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means you can learn from all events that happen, good or bad. By acknowledging things that didn't have entirely positive outcomes, we find opportunities to improve; instead of hiding the bad, embrace it and realize that it providers a chance to be better.
The purpose of reviewing feedback in a growth mindset culture is to create opportunities for growth and improvement, not one of punishment and retribution.
Helping your staff understand your goals of creating a culture of improvement built around a growth mindset can help them feel safe to evaluate the feedback that might directly or indirectly apply to their work.
Discussing feedback frequently
Getting feedback can be a very jarring experience, especially when feedback is only given infrequently, such as in once a year settings. Input that builds up over the year or months, all given it at once, can feel like an avalanche on top of your staff's psyche.
Establishing a routine where feedback is frequently viewed, such as weekly or biweekly, allows your staff to review feedback in bite-size increments. Frequent feedback sessions also enable your team to respond to the feedback they receive promptly.
This combination of not burying your staff with feedback and giving them opportunities to respond to the feedback and fix problems that may arise quickly provides an enhanced safety level. It focuses more on what they can do then and what they did in the past. Frequent feedback reviews tend to be more forward-facing because they don't carry the baggage of a year's worth of feedback.
Empower your staff to fix things
Nothing can be more demoralizing to your staff than providing them with feedback without providing them with opportunities to fix the problems they see inside that feedback.
Empowering your team to fix problems they discover from feedback allows your team to close feedback loops themselves, perpetuates a culture of growth, and helps them view feedback as a fuel for improvement.
When we provide the time and resources your team needs to make adjustments and improvements based on the feedback they receive, we make a tangible investment into their growth and build a level of trust that the feedback isn't going to be used punitively.
Lead by example
The single most effective step you can take to build a culture of feedback inside your organization is living that culture yourself. Participating in frequent feedback sessions, acting on the feedback you receive, and cultivating a growth mindset within yourself, including in your interactions with your staff, will set a positive example for your team.
If you want an organization built around improvement, especially improvement driven by feedback, you must be dedicated to improving your work environment and production through feedback.
This dedication to feedback must radiate throughout your entire organization. You shouldn't just commit to getting client feedback, but feedback from your employees, feedback from volunteers, feedback from all people with whom your organization interacts. In so doing, you establish an example for all others to follow.