Share Your Feedback-Led Growth

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We’ve all grown because of feedback, but very few of us share these important stories—including with the early-in-career colleagues who need to hear them the most. Let’s cover the challenges that can arise as a result.

Challenges to the feedback culture

As we’ve covered, building an effective feedback culture takes work, and part of this work involves telling stories about how collaboration and feedback helped you grow. Without this aspect, two common challenges arise within the culture.

  1. Overly individualistic teams

Stories of feedback-led growth serve as a counterweight to the individualistic culture many of us are surrounded by. It’s a culture of 30-under-30 lists and individual accolades where individuals are frequently brought to center stage as their team stands behind the curtain. In reality, most success looks something like this:

I interviewed LinkedIn’s Jolie Miller for an article at the Content Marketing Institute many years ago. When I asked her about developing high-performance teams at LinkedIn, she focused on relationships, communication, and collaboration—pillars that also make for effective feedback cultures:

“In my experience, a team that’s not high-performing is a team that’s in it for the transaction – one project or one piece of content or one interaction, not the longer play of strong, healthy relationships, open communication, trust, and creating a better company together. It’s more about how quickly can I cross this off my list or get through that conversation and back into my day; it’s not about building something together with and for people. Needless to say, these teams quickly get toxic for people….”

By sharing stories about how feedback propelled your growth, you’ll be making deposits into building the kind of high-performance team Jolie highlighted.

  1. Lopsided feedback dynamics

A lack of feedback stories also maintains the status quo of hierarchical and often performative feedback relationships. If you are a people manager who occasionally shares stories about how you received feedback—last week or years ago or whenever—that helped you improve in X, Y, or Z, you’ll be normalizing and even promoting feedback-seeking behavior.

As Dr. Susan Ashford’s research stated more than 40 years ago:

“Rather than a sign of weakness and uncertainty, asking for feedback could come to represent a confident desire to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses. Opening up this channel of feedback will allow employees to obtain more accurate appraisals of their work at the times when such appraisals are most valuable.”

Challenges to individual professional growth

The negative impact spills into individual growth as well.

  1. Unprepared people managers

I told the story of Khai in an article titled, To Improve Your Learning Culture, Promote Feedback Literacy. Khai was about to become a first-time people manager, but I quickly realized they never had a healthy feedback culture modeled for them.

As a result, Khai believed they were now crossing over to the other side of the feedback line. As an individual contributor, Khai passively received feedback and did what they were told. As a people manager, Khai was anxious about how to become a confident giver. The lines were black and white; one side gave feedback and the other received it.

As I met with Khai, I couldn’t help but think what a tremendous gift it would have been for their professional growth if their past managers had told them great stories about how seeking and receiving feedback helped them get to where they are. This wouldn’t have been enough for Khai to understand all it takes to build a feedback culture, but it would have made feedback feel human and dynamic rather than based on unwritten rules and lines.

  1. YIIATM (Years In Is All That Matters)

With ill-equipped new people managers and individualistic and lopsided feedback cultures void of feedback stories, it’s easy for folks to assume YIIATM. In other words, to assume that growth within the org and professionally comes just by putting in the time.

YIIATM is increasingly not a reality for today’s workforce in the U.S. and many other countries. Consider what’s happening with S&P 500 lifespans. Here is how Patrick Viguerie, Ned Calder, and Brian Hindo of Innosight described it:

“Our tracking of corporate longevity of S&P 500 firms shows a steady churn rate of companies dropping off the index as new entrants join the list and corporate lifespans continue their downward trajectory.”

And, even if YIIATM was more commonplace (as perhaps it was decades ago), the YIIATM mindset is one of complacency rather than the kind of proactive, continuous growth professionals must embrace today.

** FTW To Do **

  • This week, consider sharing a feedback-led growth story with a colleague who may benefit from it. You just might improve their relationship with feedback and with you.