Janine, our head of Culture & Community, attended the 5th episode of the hybrid event series FLUID organized by ATÖLYE and LetsWork on the Future of Workplace Culture. The panel featured Randa Taher (Innovation Facilitator and Culture Designer), Missak Vehouni (Architect of Healthy Organizations) and Zein Al Nemri (VP People and Culture at Sarwa).
The panel first highlighted the importance of culture for growing start-ups and alerted the attendees that start-ups could either proactively and thoughtfully design their culture or allow their culture to grow organically (by default). When it comes to designing a healthy culture, the way you give and receive feedback plays an important role.
The panelists explained that the often-used “feedback sandwich”, when negative feedback is sandwiched between positive feedback, and as such the positive feedback serves as a cushion to the negative feedback, does not work. It has become a cliché and is generally seen as an artificial construct for delivery of the negative feedback. This perceived fakeness around the positive feedback creates unnecessary anxiety and tension in the persons receiving the feedback as they feel things are worse than they really are. Their recommendation was for feedback to be (a) continuous (day-to-day) and contemporaneous, (b) focused on strengths rather than weaknesses and on the impact of certain behaviors and (c) in the normal voice and manner of speaking of the person delivering the feedback. The SBI Feedback Model was mentioned as a great tool for this.
SBI stands for:
• Situation: Outline the situation you are referring to, so that the context is clear and specific.
• Behavior: Discuss the precise behavior that you want to address.
• Impact: Highlight the impact of the person’s behavior on the team and organization.
According to the panel, this model reduces anxiety and tension as it makes things less personal, detaching the work or issue from the person. In this way, the person does not feel “singled out” on the basis of who he/she is, but instead receives clear insight and expectations regarding how he/she can improve his/her work performance.
… But, as you know, knowing how to receive feedback is just as important as knowing how to receive feedback: The Feedback Tango applied by IDEO, a leading design and consulting firm and umbrella organization under which ATÖLYE sits, recognizes that it takes two to tango when it comes to feedback. You can find more details here.
It would seem to us that ultimately, focus should be on creating an organization where:
1. There is safety around expression (i.e. openness to debate),
2. Continuous feedback (in both directions), and
3. Contemporaneous feedback.