GLP’s Feedback Culture: Tending the Garden

For years, GLP’s core course, Foundations of Dialogue Education, has included a set of guidelines around receiving and offering1 feedback as well as a carefully sequenced feedback model. This approach to feedback has taken root and spread across GLP culture.

Sample Feedback Guidelines:

  • Be lavish, sincere, and specific in our affirmations.
  • Offer suggestions in the form of “how about.”
  • Receive feedback with a simple “thank you.”

Sample Feedback Process:

  • To the teachers: What did you like? What would you do differently?
  • To the learners: What did you like? What suggestions do you have for change?

One of the most powerful aspects of this simple structure is that it establishes the idea of feedback as an opportunity to AFFIRM others and their work. Too often, we find that the very word “feedback” tightens people up – bracing them for something negative. But we know that people learn as much (maybe more?!) from affirmation as they do from suggestions. Catch what you like in a colleague’s work, and name it!

More recently, GLP established new routines and tools for two types of ongoing feedback to inform our work: we “build in” time for people to provide feedback at key points during our courses and consulting projects as well as at the end of them.

Always, we invite both affirmations and suggestions. It is a central feature of our feedback culture.

An invitation for reflection: What aspects of your feedback culture do you appreciate or help cultivate?

Feedback vs. Input

Over the years, GLP has found it important to distinguish between input and feedback. Careful use of these words is helpful.

INPUT = Contributing to the development of a product or idea. It is usually invited.

FEEDBACK = Responding (with an observation, praise, or a suggestion) to something that happened. It may be invited – or may need to be offered, uninvited.

Feedback, by definition, can feel personal. For this reason, we recommend the following guidelines:

When receiving feedback:

  • Remember this is one person’s observation or perspective.
  • Listen for what resonates for you.
  • Give it time to soak in.

When offering feedback:

  • Timing is key.
  • Permission is important.
  • Intent is everything.

An invitation for reflection: Think of a time that you received feedback. How did it impact you, the relationship, the work? What might have made that exchange more successful?

Strengthening Feedback in Our Relationships

Receiving feedback is not the same as offering it. It is common to find one much easier than the other. It is also common to be unaware of which of these needs work, which would benefit from intentional attention. It is important to learn how to give it effectively and receive it constructively. Certainly, feedback should not be demoralizing, hurtful, or fearful. The more regular it is, the easier it becomes.

We’ve been reading and reflecting on the good work of many race equity leaders. We’ve been reminded of the importance of a healthy feedback culture as part of a broader commitment to being an anti-racist organization. We’ve also been humbly reminded that defensiveness and fear of open conflict can characterize a white dominant culture – and that the skills of receiving and giving feedback help us to dismantle that culture.

Which of these relationships do you feel is healthy and well?

  • Offering feedback to colleagues
  • Receiving feedback from colleagues
  • Offering feedback to family and friends
  • Receiving feedback from family and friends

Which of these do you want to focus on improving?

  • Offering feedback to colleagues
  • Receiving feedback from colleagues
  • Offering feedback to family or friends
  • Receiving feedback from family or friends

An invitation for reflection: Select one current relationship that could benefit from more attention to feedback. Take a silent moment to think it through. TODAY, take one step toward receiving and offering that feedback. For example, set aside time in your calendar to compose an email or send a text requesting a time that might work for the other person/s.

Receiving and offering feedback helps enrich and deepen relationships and offers information to encourage personal and organizational development and change. We at Global Learning Partners find it invaluable and commit to making time and space for it.

Here is a GLP workshop that our staff and consultants participated in during an All Company Meeting. Feel free to adapt it for your own use.

Valerie Uccellani is GLP Senior Partner and Co-owner. Here are more blogs by Valerie.

Jeanette Romkema is GLP Senior Partner and Co-owner. Here are more blogs by Jeanette.

Feedback resources for you to explore…

  1. Engaged Feedback Checklist – A 1-page checklist to get ready to give feedback (from Daring Greatly, by Bréne Brown).
  2. Giving and Receiving Feedback – A 4-minute read about how feedback can expand our windows of self-awareness.
  3. Manager Tools (MT) – A podcast and written tips about the MT feedback model (with a focus on how Managers can give feedback to their “Directs”).
  4. How To Ask For Basic Feedback; How to Give Feedback
  5. Mind Tools Communication Skills: Feedback – Short articles and resources for receiving and offering feedback in the workplace

Here are other GLP resources you may be interested in…

  1. The Visible (and Invisible!) Benefits of Working in Teams
  2. Being a Contemplative Practitioner

  1. Recently, GLP learned the importance of the sequence of “receiving and offering” feedback. We cannot offer feedback unless we, ourselves, are good at receiving it! True enough. ↩︎