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A Growth Culture or Feedback Culture? What (and how) should we focus on?

Lots of organisations struggle, or fail, to implement a feedback culture. 

Before starting initiatives downwards, throughout the organisation, it should be well-thaught and thoroughly prepared in upfront. It is crucial that the change program, often lead by HR, must be supported by the top (Board-, CEO- and Executive Level). All employees must feel the willingness to succeed, accompanied by organisational values aligned with the new strategic pillar that was decided upon. In most cases, HR starts focussing on continuous reciprocal feedback. But, feedback is a communication-technique. It’s often felt and/or seen, by many employees, as something negative. It has, unfortunately, been used in daily practice in a wrong manner (by management & employees as well). Nevertheless, feedback is part of something bigger, a growth culture. Therefore, one should first focus on implementing a Growth Mindset on organisational level, instead of a feedback culture. Feedback comes into play, when all employees have the spirit & willingness to learn and grow (personal/team development & results). What if you already started with implementing a feedback culture? Well then you should also go ahead, in parallel, with focusing on initiatives related with a Growth Mindset.

How to foster a Mindset of Growth?

Meaningful work can be stimulated by ensuring that employees can develop their knowledge via academic learning content. Along with this leaders must design meaningful learning tasks and support employees to love challenges, to enjoy the efforts done, to be resilient and to value the (short- and long term) improvements/successes they achieved.

Meaningful work

Meaningful work can be stimulated by ensuring that employees can develop their knowledge via academic learning content. Along with this leaders must design meaningful learning tasks and support employees to love challenges, to enjoy the efforts done, to be resilient and to value the (short- and long term) improvements/successes they achieved.

Experimentation
Leaders must support employees to challenge the status-quo. Employees need to embrace new opportunities, that stretch their self-confidence and capabilities. Leaders need to get comfortable with and/or encourage risk-taking. They need to be willing to hug the failures, rather than to dismiss them or make an example of people who do try something new and fail. Leaders need to enforce a culture where one shows trust in each other, where they let employees know that they are serious about making it safe to take risks & where continuous improvement is valued.
Emphasize on the Challenge and Learning Process
Make learning a fun, but challenging, way to experience. Emphasize on the challenges, not success. Develop learning experiments via small steps so that risks become small and manageable, for all parties involved. Try different strategies, if the first one didn’t work. Take a step back and think about what to try next. Focus on the learning process! Make progress visible, so that it becomes clear how one broke through previous ceilings of experience. Learn to learn and understand things at a deeper level, so that skills are enhanced and goals will be reached.
Celebrate small successes
Harvest the learnings from success or failure & share the insights with the team and with other business areas (whenever possible). Above all: celebrate the learnings and what they led to. And last, but definitely not least, celebrate the individuals (or teams) who gave birth to these new insights.
Monitor for growth
Grade, or reward, on ‘added-value’ & ‘personal/team development’ (KBI: Key Behaviour Indicators) that has been achieved during the year. When an employee didn’t master a predefined learning opportunity, than don’t grade it as a failure ‘Insufficient’. Instead, grade/evaluate it as ‘Not Yet’. This promotes a positive culture and way of collaborating & learning. Working in this way employees don’t feel bad or ashamed that they didn’t succeed. When grading with ‘not yet’ they know what is expected to master. If it’s not the first time, then it will be achieved the next time.
Provide the right kinds of praise and encouragement
  • Praise your employees for the learning process they have engaged in. Meaning the efforts applied, the strategies used, choices that have been made, the willingness and persistence that has been displayed, … Also praise employees for the new awareness, insights and learning progress they achieved. Work becomes meaningful when employees see themselves doing tasks they couldn’t do before and understanding concepts they didn’t understand before.
  • Everybody has talents. But, results don’t only come by deploying talent. Results are mainly delivered through perseverance & the willingness to work hard. Ensure that you talk with (not over) your employee, in a sincere manner. Show that you have the best interest (and not your own, or from somebody else) in your employee. Make sure that you are on the same wavelength and don’t assume (make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’). Don’t label employees because of (own) misinterpretation or because of failures. Continuously stay in a learning modus towards your employee, but also towards yourself! Your role as a leader is not to judge, but to collaborate with your employees to make everyone smarter.
  • Stimulate continuous reciprocal feedback, when collaborating with each other & others (internal departments, clients, suppliers). Always focus on the learning process, not on the employees ability. Learn first how to deal with feedback which you receive yourself. This makes it easier to understand the learning process of your counterpart, when giving feedback! People that don’t have a Growth Mindset yet, often experience feedback as something negative. Those people can learn enjoying feedback by first starting to seek for positive feedback (e.g.: what are my strengths) themselves. After a while, when getting used to it, they can start with asking for advise (e.g.: when working together on a future project, which tips and tricks can you give, to perform even better?). In general, when giving feedback, make it positive and progressive. Clarify the future state (feed-up: what do you want to reach), clarify the current state (feed-back: make clear the progress one currently makes to reach the predefined goal) & clarify the next step(s) (feed-forward: which initiatives to undertake) by making use of positive and motivating goal-oriented questions.
  • Have conversations on a strategic level: conversations about growth, strengths, aspirations, long-term team & organisational goals and the company’s core values as well.
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