Throughout history, we have evolved, and survived as humanity, lived in society, worked in groups, discovered how to overcome our limits, and reached common goals. Being part of a group means being “protected” by its members, aligned with the same ways of acting and understanding the world around, so communicating and telling others what we think is totally necessary and inherent in our nature.
“Thanks to feedback we can become more than simple programs with simple reflexes, and develop more complex responses to the environment. Feedback allows animals like us to follow a purpose.”
Agile, high-performance organizations such as Netflix have taken advantage of this idea as the basis of their culture: being successful as a team needs honest communication and giving and receiving feedback constantly is a “must”.
People and teams interact continuously in these organizations and feedback is given and taken to improve everything they do.
Thanks to the radical transparency of their OKRs, and their projects, any colleague feels empowered to give feedback to another one and to receive it to help improve.
For instance, It is an accepted standard at Netflix that when OKRs or projects are presented, any other colleague can come to give feedback about them, regardless of the department and the hierarchical position. What really matters is the truth of the data and the honesty of a feedback with the sole aim of helping improve. The same is true after any meeting or work session with colleagues of the organization.
For the rest of us mortals outside Netflix, without a doubt, giving feedback is not an easy thing, it’s even “hard” because somehow we are not trained to do it naturally, but we have to learn how to do it.
The problem is that the feedback that many of us have experienced has been positive, neither at the time of giving nor receiving it. Thus, the feedback has become Achilles’ heel of the personal and professional development of many people and organizations on the road to high performance.
It helps us grow and become much more effective. In this sense, I especially like the definition in the RAE dictionary: “returning energy or information output from a circuit to its input system,” that is, from one person to another. Individuals, teams and organizations must “feed” themselves communicatively, because it is the basis for developing and achieving high performance.
Kim Scott is the author of the bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity, to be highly recommended. After many years of studying the nature of feedback – how it is generated correctly, when it becomes negative or how we can evolve through it – she sums up the “ideal” feedback formula in our teams and jobs in a phrase we must not forget:
To do so, it is necessary to know how the author defines what can be considered healthy feedback for organizations, and it can be taken from the following conceptual map:
“Care and challenge to improve in an honest way.”
It is the communication space we could call ideal feedback, the perfect balance between caring for and empowering (understanding it as a positive challenge) other people so that they can progress and develop.
Somehow, radical candor is almost intuitive in people because, if you take care of your colleagues, you want them to succeed and you want to communicate in a way that can be beneficial to them, not for any other reason.
“Care, but do not challenge.”
It’s not easy to tell someone you appreciate something negative. Sometimes we try to ignore reality and don’t communicate what we think for fear of hurting the feelings of the people we love. You have to be careful, yes, but you also have to be honest if you want to strengthen personal relationships in your teams.
Possibly, our colleagues want and need our feedback because we can’t see ourselves (but we can listen to how others see us). So don’t let someone with whom you have a good relationship have to say “why didn’t you tell me? It’s like a small betrayal of trust.
“Mistreat and challenge.”
Maybe you are right in what you are saying and it is true, but just because something is true it doesn’t mean you can put it without hurting. People who receive feedback need to feel that we give it because we care for them and because we care about their well-being It is this radical candor that should really motivate us to give them our opinion.
Before giving feedback we should ask ourselves: will our relationship with the other person be affected by what we are going to say, will we hurt the other person´s feelings and emotions?
“Mistreat and do not challenge.”
Welcome to the communicative horror. When you are in this area, or you hear feedback placed here, you can be sure that it only talks about one thing: insecurities, iras, and lies. When these factors influence our communication, we tend to manipulate rather than give feedback that nourishes both sides.
If you never want to be in this area, always ask yourself before giving feedback: is what I am saying true?
Knowing the feedback areas where we can situate ourselves, and understanding that total sincerity is our goal, we must take a step further and see how our communication can help the success of other people and the whole team, also ourselves as an integral part of it, because understanding and adopting a feedback of total sincerity, as they do in Netflix, can change the culture and life of our organization completely. It is necessary to commit to the need to give and receive better feedback in order to transform it into something not only positive but also a tool for growth and learning towards success. So:
If it can help, remember four things to learn how to give and receive better feedback (total sincerity):
The first thing is to accept feedback when we receive it. We have to learn to feel comfortable asking our team about ourselves or receiving opinions from others, because that is the basis that will allow us to establish a culture where feedback is not something to fear but part of our day to day, of our work as a team.
Do it personally. In the closest possible way: face to face, through video or, if not possible, by phone. Use writing as the last option, think of all the non-verbal nuances we lose along the way.
When you can, remember to ask people if the feedback you have given them has been useful, if you have been able to help them with it. You will also see if you can improve it or do something else for that person within your range of possibilities.
Having a great team will depend on having a communicative culture based on honest feedback, and, I’m sorry I’m not very effusive, but if you’re not on Netflix, it’s not going to be something that happens naturally.
If you are reading this it is because I trust that you can lead the cause, encourage your team, all the people around you to communicate with others. Especially if you are in managerial positions, or lead teams, you need to deploy effective and sincere communication through example.
It’s clear that every company is different, but a high-performing organization is not content with mediocre communication.
So let’s take as our starting point our most human values, love and truth, because regardless of the current culture we have, from today we can transform it, improve it and have conversations and learnings that allow us to grow and achieve common goals towards high performance.
Please give feedback. Help your team. Learn in your organization. Be totally honest remember:
I recommend to all readers of this article the reading of Radical Candor- Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Kim Scott, 2017.
CEO Actio Global.