Establishing a Feedback Culture in Your Practice

Mar 8, 2023 5 min read

As an independent advisor, you need to wear a few different hats. Sure, a top priority is to look out for your clients and help them achieve their long-term goals, but you also need to manage your practice and foster a high-performing culture. And in a world of great resignations, reshufflings, and quiet quitting, one thing remains true: when building your practice, the key to success is having great people and keeping them motivated and engaged. By creating a culture of open and transparent feedback, you’re building a solid foundation for your practice that can withstand whatever the new trends will be in the future.

But this is often easier said than done.

A common mistake where managers can miss the mark is not the frequency with which managers communicate with their team but rather the effectiveness of the communications themselves. Just because your team is hitting their targets, it doesn’t necessarily mean they feel valued or motivated. And this may hinder their ability to grow.

People need consistent feedback, both constructive and positive. Of course, you should find areas of opportunities and coach individuals to help with their performance, but you should also focus on praising them when they turn around a stubborn prospective client or finish projects before deadlines. Positive reinforcement will keep your high-performing team members motivated to continue to reach that level of performance.

No matter the type of feedback you give, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

· Understand that timing is everything — Understanding when you should provide feedback seems simple, but it’s the most important part. If someone just spilled coffee on their white shirt, the chances of them being open to hearing or discussing feedback are quite low. But timing also includes the relevance of the feedback. Bringing up someone’s Q1 achievements at your year-end review may not be the most effective time. Finally, setting up some kind of cadence to provide formal or informal feedback is also important — it allows you to have sessions booked specifically to relay feedback.

· Ask before offering feedback — Going hand-in-hand with timing, it’s important to ask the person if they are open to receiving feedback. This allows them to prepare for the conversation and come in with an open mind.

· Consider the environment — When providing feedback, it’s important to put the type of feedback in the context of the current situation. For example, if one of your team members needs some constructive criticism after a poor presentation, doing so in a room full of people is never the way to go. On the other hand, if a team member just closed a difficult sale, publicly acknowledging it in front of their peers is absolutely the right time.

· Be specific — What is the situation or task on which you’re providing feedback? Using exact specifics will allow them to directly connect what is being shared with the event in question. Vagueness is not your friend here. Mentioning their actions or behaviours specifically also allows them to reinforce or modify their behaviour according to the situation.

· Share your results — Describe what happened as a direct result of their actions and why it was or was not effective. If it affected your goals, be sure to mention it.

Now that we have a general framework, let’s put it into practice. Below are two examples of feedback, both positive and negative, that show the difference when applying the above guidelines.

Positive Feedback

Scenario 1 — “Hey, Melissa, you killed sales this week. Great work!”

Scenario 2 — “Hey, Melissa, your sales numbers are up 50% this week — the highest on the team. I see you’ve been calling previously cold leads and it’s paid off. Because of your hard work, we’re 5% away from meeting our target this month. Great work!”

Melissa is more likely to remember the feedback in the second scenario. With the recognition from her leader, she’ll likely feel more trusted and motivated on her team.

Constructive Feedback

Scenario 1 — “Yikes, Chris! Can you stop with the LOLs and emojis to clients? It’s embarrassing!”

Scenario 2 — “Hey, Chris, I noticed text slang and emojis when you email Client X; they’ve also complained that they find this inappropriate. Informal language may be acceptable when communicating internally with our team, but when emailing with clients, we should keep our communications professional, clear, and concise. By maintaining a strong and focused message, we improve our relationships over time.”

If Chris received the first bit of feedback, he may feel dejected and withdrawn. However, the second scenario sets clear boundaries between internal and external communications, and will impact his behaviour moving forward.

Performance Improvement Process

Part of having an effective feedback and high-performing culture is ensuring you have a process in place to help coach performance improvement. There are situations where you may wish to part ways with a team member because their performance does not align with the rest of the team. It’s important that, along with following the above tips, you document, document, document. Keep track of the goals set out for the team member and have objective measures to these goals. This will allow you to track how they’re measuring up to these goals. Sometimes it’s just a matter that they require a bit more coaching, or, unfortunately, sometimes it’s best to part ways.

The Bottom Line

When used properly, feedback is ultimately a very useful retention tool and should be an essential part of your practice. It may not come naturally at first, but over time it will just become second nature. Not only does it help your team feel like the work they’re doing is meaningful, it shows a clear path for professional development and a goal to strive towards. Fostering a healthy culture in your practice increases both morale and productivity, and be sure to check out the four HR trends to watch in 2023 for more tips!

-Agnes Michalowski is the senior business and culture partner at Purpose Unlimited

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