Here are three tips to put this approach into practice:1) De-pressurize the language To implement these golf swing adjustments, we create lists of “Keeps and Adjusts.” What has been helpful or worked well that you should keep doing? And what might you consider adjusting for next time? The goal of this language is to take some of the emotional intensity out of the thought of giving feedback. No matter how well something goes, there will always be things that could be adjusted to make it even better for next time. No matter how badly something goes, there will always be things that went well to be retained for future such initiatives. 2) Remove the hierarchy We encourage those leading projects to take the lead in convening these “Keeps and Adjusts” conversations. This choice reduces defensiveness by allowing the project manager to invite feedback from a position of power as the person leading the meeting, rather than as the subject of a meeting called by and presided over by someone else — often their supervisor. We often know most of the things that went well and could be done better in our own particular project. By sharing our own lists first, we signal our self-awareness, and we demonstrate our commitment to continual improvement. 3) Routinize the practice In every project, team members are encouraged to keep track of their Keeps and Adjusts. Afterward, they are invited to share their lists with either a colleague or, with larger projects, the whole team. For example, every event we host generates a list of Keeps and Adjusts. Over time, the projects themselves improve, and a feedback culture is built. By routinizing feedback in this way, we come to expect it. Both appreciation of good things and acknowledgement of things to improve become regular occurrences. With this routinization, our anxiety in giving feedback reduces, as does our defensiveness in receiving it.
Summary De-pressurize feedback, encourage project managers to lead, and routinize the process. By taking these steps, you can work toward a feedback culture and feel the benefits in terms of both performance and relationships. Chris White is Principal at Riverbank Consulting Group, and a faculty associate at the Center for Positive Organizations at the Michigan Ross Business School.