Success is Fueled by Feedback
By Anil Saxena, Director of Employee Engagement, Comcast Cable

A person wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera  Description generated with very high confidenceInnovation, productivity, change agility—all are necessary skills for driving business success. At the heart of creating a vibrant culture where these characteristics flourish is feedback; a healthy back-and-forth to make products and services better, more efficient and more desirable for the end user.  Intuitively, it makes sense. But, we don’t have to rely on intuition. Research tell us that there are five key reasons feedback drives performance.

The nexus of high functioning teams
Over and over again, experts and research highlight the criticality of feedback on performance. "Feedback is crucial to the effectiveness of the team. The effective team leader ensures that feedback reaches the entire team on its goals and metrics, as well as feedback to each individual team member. This feedback must be received in time to make adjustments and corrections. Timely and appropriately delivered feedback can make the difference between a team that hides mistakes and a team that sees mistakes as opportunities,” said Chris Musselwhite, founder of Discovery Learning.

Building trust
Many organizations have tried to identify the building blocks to create teams that innovate and create remarkable customer experiences. As outlined in a recent article in Harvard Business Journal, employees thrive when they have a psychological safety net which can be established when feedback flows freely among team members.

Promoting healthy risk taking
According to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the core elements of a successful team is the ability to deal with conflict and have healthy debates. Knowing that fellow team members are willing to provide candid and productive feedback, and that they do it with the team’s best interest in mind, aids one’s willingness to try new approaches and propose unique solutions. 

Flattening your organizational structure
If everyone knows it’s okay to give and receive feedback, it makes the distance between levels lessen in an organization. "People from entirely different teams can chime in with experienced feedback even if they aren’t involved in the specific project, adding value, perspectives and raising the overall quality,” explained Rawn Shah, independent analyst and Forbes contributor.

Living organizational values
There is no better way to showcase the values of the organization, then to make them live than have a culture rich in feedback. “I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better,” said Elon Musk,  co-founder and CEO of Tesla.

Although everyone knows that feedback is important, lack of willingness, skill and culture can get in the way of it being a regular part of the organization. However, there is a four-step path to gain buy in to make feedback the norm in an organization.

Step 1: Interview
Talk to people that everyone believes is a “feedback expert.” Talk to every single person that is suggested to you. Gain an understanding of what people in the organization mean by “being great at giving feedback.”

Step 2: Gather Data
You want to understand, in as an objective way as possible, what people in the organization are saying about the issue.  It’s important to get both the qualitative and quantitative data to validate what was learned in the interviews. The data is also exceptionally useful in creating a business case. Sources for data can include engagement surveys and exit surveys.

Step 3: Take examples from the past
It’s likely that other business units in the organization have tried a similar effort. Look at what they did and borrow liberally. If the initiative was successful, build on it. If the initiative wasn’t, learn from it. 

Step 4: Get green light and take a mile
Create a comprehensive business case that showcases how feedback will increase organization performance compared to what will happen if nothing is done. The beauty of incorporating feedback into your culture is that it can be low budget/high impact.

Once you get approval, start running! Remember that group of folks you interviewed? You’ll want to get them involved in driving this forward. Pull them together and create working group to develop, promote and champion the initiative throughout the organization.

You’ll also want to create a common language and build a company-centric model to deliver and receive feedback. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. Instead, you can use the essence of successful models in the marketplace to develop a language to express this new way of acting that’s culturally in tune. Ideally, you’ll want something that people can point to and understand no matter where they are in the organization. Next, you’ll want to implement a rapid method of development and deployment to dramatically shorten rollout time and increase business ownership.

Once you’ve established the systems and processes, you’ll also want to integrate feedback into everything. Talk about it in common communication vehicles (newsletters, etc.), build and distribute tools for HR business partners and leaders to share and identify resources where individuals can learn more. You’ll want to weave feedback into all aspects of the fundamental leadership development initiatives. And don’t forget to make it part of performance development—what you measure often gets done. 

Remember that the journey is long, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Implementing a shift in the culture will take time.  You can make the journey feel shorter by showcasing the successes along the way. Think about it like a road trip. It takes a while to drive to California. But, it’s important to stop along the way and celebrate the journey.


About Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is the Director of Employee Engagement at Comcast Cable. He will be a featured speaker at CTHRA’s HR Symposium on October 2, 2018 in Philadelphia — a gathering of some of the smartest minds in HR today. We are all on journeys to transform the organizations we support, and feedback is one small part of enabling our organizations to become nimbler and more prepared for the massive changes that are inevitably coming.  Anil looks forward to sharing his journey and insights. Register to attend!




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