How Feedback Defines Culture

BY Kathy Crosett
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A few years ago, the learned folks at Merriam-​Webster declared culture was the word of the year. They based their announcement on the number of times users had searched for the definition of culture. Managers spend a lot of time defining what culture means for their company. That time would be better spent if managers took action to improve their organization’s culture.

In his column for TLNT​.com, Joe Hirsch relays a story about culture and feedback from managers. In a study, university faculty members provided feedback to students. The feedback ranged from “nice work” to a message that was a bit longer – up to 19 words. The longer messages didn’t include specific feedback such as “clean up your grammar.” The messages only encouraged the students to do better, and said that their teachers believed in their abilities. The students who received these longer forms of communication were far more likely to redo their work and score higher grades. The experts noted students were motivated to try harder because someone they respected and valued had been encouraging.

How can you tie this message to your workplace? Think about all the opportunities you’ve missed in the past week. If a team member has finally closed the deal on a big partnership, extend yourself beyond the usual ‘great job’ compliment. Mention a specific detail that impressed you. Maybe your team member was able to connect the dots between each of the companies’ offerings. That vision may be what sealed the deal. Remark on the vision and ability if you want to see more of the same from your team member.

Alternatively, not everyone succeeds on their first attempt to tackle a new project. If a team member turns in a half-​finished white paper, make sure to explain exactly what you like – whether it’s a strong lead sentence or the voice. Then say you have confidence in their ability to edit the piece. Don’t get into nitpicking details about how you’d do the work.

This is their moment to shine, and with your encouragement, they’ll do so. In many organizations, the right kind of feedback from managers defines a key part of great culture.