Global Leadership Blog

Creating Feedback Culture in Your Global Team

“I don’t hear anything from their side” is the number one complaint that individuals express when working in cross cultural, virtual and global teams. There are three forms of feedback that this article will deal with – that of general responsiveness (or lack there of), accolades or praise, and criticism (hopefully constructive).

Feedback is a necessary component to doing business successfully, particularly when working globally. Studies have shown that employee engagement soars when a culture of feedback exists in their company. It has also been proven that employees are more satisfied at work when they receive regular feedback. It is one of the number one issues that comes up in employee surveys (in an of itself a feedback tool), and when asked about their opinions, individuals regularly ask the question whether their feedback will be integrated into actions taken by the organization.

Companies have unique, and not so unique, methods of responding, delivering accolades and offering criticism. Responsiveness is easy to remedy: Tell people you expect a response. Mandate it, request it, state it, etc.

Accolades are also relatively unproblematic. However there are cultures that feel too much praise is a nuisance and they assume there must be an exaggeration or perhaps the source is untrustworthy due to its lack of real content. But for the most part, people can live with praise in all its various forms.

Where most organizations could use assistance in improving how feedback is given and received is in the area of criticism, or as it is sometimes more diplomatically called, “constructive criticism”. Thus, this article will provide five steps to successfully creating a culture of feedback in which your global, cross cultural, and diverse organization can learn to give and receive constructive criticism in order for it to excel in efficiency and productivity.

2 out of 5 Steps To Creating a Culture of Feedback in your Global Team

1. Define the Culture of Your Organization

In order to understand what needs to change, it’s important to reflect on the current situation. A team has an unconscious and conscious way of functioning, operating and communicating in ways that may or may not have been explicitly discussed. More often than not, teams rely on inexplicit cues to orient members to the wanted behavior. Additionally, the team lead or project manager usually sets the standard for such cues. It is critical to become conscious of expectations and then to define the culture. Once the existing culture of your organization, team or group is defined, it’s possible to develop a plan of action.

Ask the following questions of team members:

• What are the keywords best used to describe your team?
• How do individuals dress? Behave? Structure them-selves?
• How do people express pleasure or displeasure?
• What is the meeting culture?
• How would you describe team member’s work-styles?
• What are the preferred communication tools (email, IM, etc)?
• How are attitudes towards time, space, relationship to co-workers?

After collecting the answers to these questions, strengths as well as weaknesses in team efficiency will become clear. Focusing on team culture provides an appropriate channel for individuals to express their needs, while diffusing any potential frustration. It also allows team leads to modify and set alternate cues that provide a more inclusive and flexible team work environment.

2. Agree on the Style of Message Delivery

Expectations in Communication

People learn – from a young age – an “appropriate” way to express their opinions, agreement or disagreement, as well as a willingness to respond to a request or required deliverable. Generally, there are two principle types of communication in which most individuals can be categorized: Direct and Indirect. Where one leans is primarily based on national cultural traits. For example, according to the research Israelis and Germans are the most direct communicators in the world, where Japan and India are two of the most indirect societies. Of course there are exceptions within a country, but generally speaking, being direct in Germany is an acceptable and preferred practice, where in Japan, being more indirect is the norm.

There is a rather simple way to see where one falls on the scale between Direct and Indirect. Direct cultures will use the word “No” when they disagree or haven’t been convinced yet, but this doesn’t mean they’re upset nor that the conversation is over. In fact, quite the opposite, it means they are ready for a discussion to see if they can see another point of view. By contrast, Indirect cultures will use the phrase, “Yes, and…” to share another opinion or idea if they don’t agree or are not yet convinced. For example, “That’s a good idea, however, we might want to look at other options, too.” When someone from an indirect culture says, “No”, it might mean they are upset and that they would like to end the conversation.

Giving feedback is very different between direct and indirect cultures. A direct culture won’t hesitate to be critical, constructive criticism is seen as necessary and good. For an indirect culture, criticism must be delivered carefully. For example, a direct culture might state, “I don’t find the approach to that procedure sensible.” Where an indirect culture would say, “There are many possible approaches to that procedure, perhaps we should discuss a few of them.”

Direct cultures find the perceived vagueness of indirect cultures frustrating, and vice versa, indirect cultures can become easily offended by direct cultures. It is nearly impossible for emotions not to rise. However, it is possible for your team to agree on a style of message delivery that suits everyone.

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson