Working with other people inevitably leads to interpersonal tensions, because well... we’re people! People misunderstand each other. People have different values, biases, and cultural expectations. Nobody is a perfect communicator, so it’s unavoidable that sometimes we’ll step on each other’s toes. Left unattended, each of these small bumps can accumulate into growing tension, disengagement, and outright conflict. Relationships break down, teams disintegrate into a cold war of opposing factions, workplace drama makes collaboration impossible and momentum grinds to a halt.
Every high-performing team needs effective methods for giving feedback, to repair trust and to support each other’s learning.
In an open feedback culture, your team becomes antifragile: addressing the small tensions, frustrations and disappointments quickly and cleanly brings colleagues closer together.
A feedback culture is a non-negotiable ingredient for any great team: it supercharges your collaboration, collective intelligence, and engagement. So how do you get there?
“The Hum opened the door to some fundamental shifts for us.” — Suzy, Foodwatch International
How to Change Culture
Culture change is a challenging prospect. Global consulting firm McKinsey found 70% of transformation projects fail. To make it work, you need several factors to work in tandem.
First, the leadership team needs to be committed to the change project. They need to be willing to display the right behaviours, as everyone else in the organisation is looking to them as role models. And they need to commit the time and budget necessary to really make a difference.
Second, we need to understand people’s resistance to change and work with it respectfully, genuinely listening to their concerns instead of steamrolling over them. Peter Senge said something like, “People don’t resist change, they resist change being done to them.” So an effective culture change project is collaborative and participatory.
Third, the behaviour change needs to be synchronised across a whole team or organisation simultaneously. It’s not enough for one or two people to try some new behaviours in an ad hoc fashion. It’s like changing from a tango to a waltz: if you change the tune, everyone can switch to the new dance simultaneously. It doesn’t work to change one person at a time. Social dynamics are complex interlocking patterns that emerge from the interactions between many actors. To change culture you need an orchestrated, coordinated shift in behaviour.
The Hum Method for Building a Feedback Culture
Over the past years, we’ve developed a comprehensive approach to building a feedback culture. It starts with an intensive 3-day workshop, followed by a 3-month integration period.
Feedback is a topic that touches on sensitive interpersonal dynamics, so it’s important to launch the training program with a face-to-face workshop rather than working solely online.
Our 3-day workshop is carefully designed to guide the team to increasing levels of trust & vulnerability, working with people’s resistance and gradually enrolling everyone to participate when they’re ready.
We start with getting to know each other, understanding the different personalities in the organisation to build empathy and mutual understanding. Then we introduce a handful of specific step-by-step methods for giving feedback. Midway through the workshop, everyone has a chance to roleplay what it is like to give someone feedback about an unresolved interpersonal tension they are experiencing. By the end of Day 3 we move from roleplay to the real thing: all colleagues practise giving feedback to each other, both appreciative and constructive.
We know that our workshops are usually entertaining and engaging, many people get excited and experience a “workshop high”: a temporary openness to trying new behaviours. But after the workshop, people go back to their normal life, back to the everyday annoyances of the workplace. So while it’s easy to create a “peak experience” of temporary enthusiasm at a good workshop, translating that to sustained behaviour change is not so straightforward.
That’s why our workshops are backed up with a 3-month integration program. After the workshop, participants continue to meet regularly in small peer-support groups. These meetings are a space to keep practising the methods we introduced in the workshop, and to keep each other accountable in implementing new behaviours at work.
Dedicating this sustained length of time is how you make the organisational priority concrete, it’s a demonstrable commitment to creating change.
Principles for a Transformative Training
Our training methodology includes a number of innovative techniques that make our workshops much more effective than your average corporate training:
Socratic method: we lead with questions, engaging participants to think critically and generate insights from their own personal experience, rather than us “downloading” a lot of abstract information for them to memorise.
Practice-driven: we offer concrete step-by-step practices that we have used in our own organisations, with minimal lecturing and maximum peer-to-peer interaction.
Peer Support Pods: all participants return each day to the same small subgroup of peers to reflect and practise together. The small group is a safe-to-fail environment to build trust and practise new behaviours.
Journaling: the workshops are punctuated by moments of quiet, where participants can reflect and privately answer questions about their own difficult experiences.
Nervous system regulation: we take a trauma-informed and somatically-grounded approach. This means participants pay attention to their physical sensations, so they can venture out of their comfort zone intentionally, without forcibly overriding their own safe boundaries.
Salutogenic: this means we take a strengths-based approach, starting from a position of “what’s strong with you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?”
We surveyed participants after a recent workshop and measured a 100% Net Promoter Score. Here's a couple of quotes from them:
“The training from The Hum helped me to lower my barriers to give and receive feedback in a very short time. Now that giving and receiving feedback is no longer a big hurdle, I get to know better how my colleagues and I work, as persons and professionals.” — Frank, campaign leader, Foodwatch International
“This workshop was a catalyst to open up our organisation and enable us to work together to tackle the systemic changes we seek. We need to recognise each other and have our personal development at the heart in order to be our most effective selves. The Hum opened the door to some fundamental shifts for us.” — Suzy, Head of Brussels Office, Foodwatch International
Developing a feedback culture is essential to improving communication, enhancing performance, increasing collaboration, and building trust in an organisation. Culture change is a complex challenge that needs specialist support.
Our training approach combines immersive workshops followed by a sustained integration period, to create a safe-to-fail environment where colleagues feel comfortable practicing new behaviours giving and receiving feedback.
If you’re interested in how The Hum can support your organisation, drop us a line. We’re happy to share more details and adapt the training program to suit your needs.