Establishing an open feedback culture

As most teams are now starting to head back to work, we thought this month we would focus on the broader topic of ‘Humanising the Workplace’. 

There are so many rules, regulations and requirements that govern the workplace (particularly at the moment) that sometimes I feel business owners and leaders just feel totally overwhelmed with their obligations. 

Along with that, the fear of getting things wrong, penalties and potential claims have resulted in some managers holding off making decisions or having transparent conversations with team members as they are worried about the consequences and so instead, say nothing. 

But this means….really useful information is not getting passed on to team members that could potentially help them improve and develop or keep them updated with what is going on. 

So, this month, we are going to be focusing on some topics that can assist opening up communication, building transparency and setting super clear standards. 

The starting point is setting an open feedback culture. 

If you can enable a culture where employees feel comfortable raising concerns or ideas (respectively), ask about how they are going proactively and if there is anything they could be doing to improve, you are well on your way to establishing an open feedback culture. 

Match this with employers providing open, honest and constructive feedback (both positive and negative) on an ongoing basis and you will notice a significant difference in both the organisation performance and culture. 

I am sure we all have had negative experiences on feedback (either none provided at all or if you have had it, it was delivered or received poorly), so we thought we would provide a few tips that might help. 

6 tips to consider in relation to building an open feedback culture

1. How trustworthy are your leaders?

Your ability to build an effective open feedback environment will be based on the trust levels within the organisation and particularly, the leaders within the business. 

According to Charles Feltman, “The choice of trust consists of four distinct assessments about how someone is likely to act. These assessments are sincerity, reliability, competence and care”.

When reviewing your leadership, how do they stack up against these 4 areas?

2. Flip the lens

Whether you’re an Employee or a Manager, changing the lens in your head of thinking feedback is scary is critical. We like to look at an analogy of not giving someone feedback in the same light as ‘letting them walk with toilet paper on their shoe’ and saying nothing. 

This is the first shift you need to make whether you are giving it or receiving it. 

Giving feedback to someone should be because you care about them and if you are receiving it, always keep this mind as well. Even if it is not what you wanted to hear, generally, it is much better to know and hear directly than to not. 

3. Telling people that you have an open feedback culture as soon as you can and what this means

For some people, the mention of the word ‘feedback’ sends shivers down their spine and they automatically assume it will be negative. 

Explaining why you have an open feedback culture and that it is because you genuinely care about them and value feedback is important in setting expectations and making people feel comfortable with this. 

If you introduce this when people start, it is a lot easier than trying to establish it with an existing team however it can be done if you bring people on the journey of what you are doing and why this is so important. 

4. Give people the skills in giving and asking for feedback

Getting people comfortable with both giving and receiving/asking for feedback is critical as this is a skill to master like anything else. 

Giving effective feedback can be hard. It takes thought and practice as to the best way to deliver it. Like learning to drive a car, it becomes a lot easier the more you practice. Not only are there different ways to deliver it, we have different behaviour profiles of the recipient to consider as well.  So introducing this properly does take effort and time.

We run team training sessions all the time (plus also included in our 90 day Accelerator and 6 week Management Acceleration Program on line) on different approaches to use and things to consider so this topic should definitely be included on your teams training or development calendar.

5. Practice positive feedback well 

‘Great job’ is nice warm and fuzzy but it is not particularly useful on its own in setting expectation. If you can get great at catching people do the right thing, it will reduce your need to provide constructive feedback. 

 We like to use the SBI (situation, behaviour, impact) model as a guide for both positive and constructive feedback as it provides a useful framework to follow. 

For example, “Yesterday while preparing for the board reports (Situation), I love the new summary table you have placed at the beginning of the board pack with the traffic light system and recommendation) and that you were able to get it out 5 days before the meeting (Behaviour). Accordingly, the meeting only took 2 hours instead of up to 4 hours with more productive conversations had. 

By the way, team members please do not forgot that positive feedback should go both ways. Please also take the opportunity to recognise your Employers when they do great things. 

6. Be easy to give feedback to, say thank you and do something with the feedback

Let’s be honest, sometimes constructive feedback can crush you but when delivered properly and with the right intent, it is critical for your ongoing success and learning. 

If you are approachable and the experience for the person providing it is a positive one (rather than the person being defensive and aggressive), people are more likely to provide more feedback on an ongoing basis. 

Ultimately, you choose what to do with that feedback but saying thank you, even if you don’t entirely agree with it, will make the person comfortable doing it again. Also, in your mind you should be thinking, thank goodness this person is coming to me directly and cares enough about taking the time to do it. 


As an organisation, establishing an environment where all team members feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback will enable more proactive and constructive solutions, more progressive professional development and more open, transparent conversations which are all positive things in moving organisations and individuals forward. 

So, wishing you well in your feedback endeavours…….