Cultivating a Culture of Feedback

 It’s that time of year where you reflect on what worked and what didn’t in the previous year, and you begin to think about what’s ahead of you in this next year. This is the perfect time for feedback, formally or informally.


Or is it? Is there a reason we look at a new year as a clean slate? I do it too. I indulge from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day and then decide January 1 will be the day I start fresh.

There are plenty of articles out there advising on the delivery of feedback and its art form. These are extremely helpful because giving feedback, especially constructive, is a difficult conversation. What I’m imparting here is making feedback a mindset. If you want to cultivate a culture of feedback to engage employees and enhance productivity, there are 3 overarching elements to incorporating it, and it doesn’t mean just at performance review time.


Feedback should not be reserved for the performance review. Managers should be offering it, and employees should be seeking it…often. High performing teams conduct a feedback routine called a Hot Wash after every major event to evaluate performance. Derived from the U.S. Army, "the term Hot Wash comes from the practice used by some soldiers of dousing their weapons in extremely hot water as a means of removing grit and residue after firing…One infantry soldier described it as ‘the quick and dirty cleaning that can save a lot of time later.’” (Source: US Department of Defense Education Activity).

Instead of waiting until the end of year, feedback should be provided frequently as a way to constantly adjust and save time in the long run. Startups use this concept with their products – obtaining constant feedback and tweaking as the market responds. Why not use this with your people?


Over the holidays, a friend shared that he was frustrated with his company’s review process. Throughout the year, he received very positive feedback and then at the end of the year - the time where it counts the most for bonus distribution – he received some negative feedback that impacted his bonus. He was actively seeking it out, and willing to work on his shortcomings, but he had no awareness. His managers were not doing him any favors by sugarcoating their feedback throughout the year.


Oftentimes feedback can be misconstrued. It’s not fun to be told you aren’t doing something well. You feel judged, scolded, and wrong. But if someone knew where the feedback was coming from, it may change how she receives it. I worked at a company where feedback was ingrained in the culture. During my interview, an employee explained that “feedback is love.” How refreshing! I knew that when someone offered me feedback, it was because they cared about me and wanted me to improve. And when I was on the delivery end of constructive feedback, the person receiving it would understand that I was genuinely looking out for her. You wouldn’t hesitate to tell your friend that she has ketchup on her chin so that she doesn’t embarrass herself, so why wouldn’t you tell a colleague that she takes on too much to please everyone. It’s not passing judgment, it’s making someone aware of areas that can vastly improve her life. Working in a company that had this openness was freeing. I never felt judged or wrong. I felt cared for and free to take risks.

Regardless of the type of culture you have, formal or informal, feedback is something that everyone deserves, and it should be frequent, honest, and understood.


Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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