Why Every Company Should Encourage the 'F' Word

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Whether you are running a startup or driving high performance teams at a Fortune 500 company, you need to encourage use of the 'F' word in the office.

Of course I am talking about one of the most powerful words in the English language: Feedback.

Every day leaders, managers and employees think about the impact of this word, whether intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or subconsciously.

Employees ask themselves:

  • Am I doing a good job?
  • Am I valued?
  • Am I working on the right things?

Leaders and managers ask themselves:

  • Are people getting what they need to be successful?
  • Do they understand the mission of our business?
  • Are we making customer-centric decisions?

Related: How to Foster a Feedback-Friendly Company

At Porch.com, the home network, we strive to create a culture of transparency where feedback is encouraged from all sides. In fact, every week we release an internal survey through anonymous feedback tool TINYPulse to every employee that seeks comment on a specific topic. On Friday we get together as a company and hit on trends we see in the feedback. While developing a culture that embraces feedback is important, it isn't always easy.  

People give and receive feedback in different ways. Personal preference plays a crucial role in understanding how to effectively manage feedback, so it can be used to drive business, team and individual performance forward.

For anyone working to build their own business, for anyone who is managing for the first time or is looking to better understand their performance in relation to the company goals, here are three principles for encouraging a culture of feedback.

Related: 5 Steps to Getting Better Employee Feedback (Even If You Hate It)

Make feedback a core company principle.

If you seek out and request feedback from your customers, partners and employees from day one then you are on your way towards creating a culture where feedback is a core principle. If not, how do you get started? It can be as simple as asking yourself some very basic (yet important) questions. Are you a company that makes customer-centric decisions day in and day out? Do you think about ways of solving real pain for your customers based on their feedback? Are you asking partners for input to ensure a path to shared success? Are you investing in customer support operations so your customer needs are always top of mind?  Do your employees have a forum for sharing their ideas?

How to implement this principle:
Share customer and partner feedback with your team: the good and the bad. Find ways to amplify the good and work together to improve the negative. This will help everyone feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Create a platform where employees can give feedback (anonymously if they prefer). Most importantly is creating outbound communication that shows you are acknowledging and working to take action as appropriate.

Make sure you understand individuals' needs.

Everyone receives and understands information in different ways -- and feedback is no different. Some people want feedback face to face while others prefer email. Some people want to have scheduled meetings to talk about feedback while others prefer “in the moment.” As a manager you need to understand what works for your direct reports. You need to know what words motivate and which ones discourage. You need to ask them how they want to give and receive feedback.

How to implement this principle:
For employees: If asked how you prefer feedback, be honest. If you are not asked, be proactive and offer it up. Hone in on what really matters to you. In many cases your manager will be managing many different personality types. As times you will need to meet them halfway. Take the time to focus on what you really need to be successful in addition to areas you can stretch to help your manager be successful.

Related: Drive a Feedback Loop: Employees Will Benefit, So Will Your Company

Make an effort to embrace.

When you get feedback don’t look for reasons to say NO. Embrace the feedback and ensure you listen as well as you hear. While the feedback given may not be possible, it encourages a dialogue that may lead to new ideas and ways of doing business. If you just say "no, that is not possible” before someone has the chance to explain themselves, you are potentially extinguishing an even better solution. Don’t do that to yourself, the business or your employees.  

How to implement this principle:
Listen: let people have the time to explain their position. In many cases people feel better by simply having a chance to offer their opinion. Along the way they may discover themselves why something can or cannot be done. If you interrupt you are robbing them of that discovery.

Acknowledge and bridge: While you may not be able to act on every piece of feedback, acknowledge what CAN be done and build a bridge towards implementing that solution. In this case everyone will win and a culture of feedback begins to take shape where people embrace the opportunity to solve problems. Once that catches on it will become contagious and you are on your way.

Related: Ask Your Employees These 4 Simple Questions to Elicit Productive Feedback