11 Best Practices for Establishing a Winning Feedback Culture

This one’s for all the managers out there.

Teams with cultures that believe in 360 degree feedback are the most successful kinds of teams. I’ve seen it time and time again.

The relationship between a manager and his/her reports can be a delicate one. Do yourself a huge favor and set up regular check-ins rooted in providing & receiving feedback. It’ll be your surest way to founding an open and trusting tie with your reports, which, in turn, unleashes a world of possibility for learning how to become a better version of yourself as an employee/manager/team member.

Here are eleven best practices in creating a strong feedback culture through 1-on-1 check-ins drawn from experience with both good and bad managers and from being a manager myself:

1) Set up a regular cadence for check-ins with all of your direct reports. Both of you should craft a loose agenda for each check-in, in advance. Each person should share the 2–3 things they absolutely want to cover during the 1-on-1.

2) Check-ins should be at least 30 mins. Don’t rush. Your team member will not feel comfortable opening up and asking questions if they know that you’re pressed for time. Walking meetings are a great way to reduce stress (you’re not staring each other down in a conference room).

3) Your report should start the conversation. Ask them, simply, What’s on your mind? How are things going? How was your weekend? Make them feel at-ease so they can begin sharing their thoughts.

4) Feedback should be 360. Always. Share your targeted positive feedback and suggestions on how to improve and ask for them in return. Make sure this feedback is specific and not just a general, “Bobbie, you’re doing great!” And while positive encouragement and recognizing achievements is important, remember that we learn more when things don’t go our way and when we’re told what we didn’t do well.

5) Set clear goals and deadlines for the projects/tasks you assign. It’s much easier for someone to be effective and ask specific questions if they’ve been given clear expectations to meet and clear deliverables to produce.

6) Specifically for onboarding, your team should have SOPs that are shared with new employees right off the bat — SOPs are highly useful to get people up and running and for dumping what’s in your brain out on paper so that that knowledge is saved for future employees.

If you don’t have SOPs, get your new hire to create them! That’ll help you, help future employees, and help the new hire because the act of creating a process is like taking notes during a lecture: it will drive home the material faster and serve as a reference guide in the future. 1-on-1s are the perfect time for this. Once they’ve drafted up the SOPs, review them in person and correct as needed.

7) During a 1-on-1, always ask how a person is doing in general, in life, as a human being, outside the office. Don’t just talk about work. See your people as the multi-dimensional humans that they are.

8) Regarding the use of communication and project management tools: If you, as a boss, are sharing important info over particular channels with your team, giving them direction and assigning tasks, they won’t have any other option but to use them if they want to do their jobs well. They’ll have to use the tools. So if Slack, Trello, Asana, etc. are important to you, make sure the information shared via those tools is important. They should be extensions of your check-ins and eventually embody the same authenticity that your in-person interactions with your team members have.

9) Instead of asking, “What questions do you have?” (too open-ended), ask “What do you want to learn more about?” or “What do you wish you understood better about the business or this project?” Those are friendlier ways of encouraging learning.

10) Take notes on the stuff that you’re afraid you might forget during the check-in and encourage the other person to do the same. Taking a moment to write something down is not a sign of weakness.

11) Repetition is powerful. If there are take-aways and to-dos and learnings at the end of your chat, repeat them together to ensure you’re both on the same page.

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