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The Unspoken Challenge

How family background influence team feedback culture.

Many years ago I moved to the peaceful shores of New Zealand, from the hustle and bustle of Argentina. After a while I noticed that I carried more than just my luggage. I brought with me a cultural blueprint of how communication should unfold, how to confront conflict and how to give feedback. I was struggling to communicate with my friends and colleagues, it seemed like I was building walls and not bridges. I realised that my transition was not just about changing countries, but also about adapting my communication style, from what I knew, to what was more effective.

It's one thing to understand the mechanics of a healthy feedback culture. When asked, many of us can recite the principles like the back of our hand. However, it's entirely another to implement it within our teams. It asks us to rewire the very behavioural patterns we've been steeped in through our cultural and family upbringings. These patterns are a part of our identity, intertwined with how we view the world and ourselves within it. And as we try to establish a healthier feedback culture in our teams, we come face to face with the complexities of that change: it asks for a transformation that is as personal as it is collective.

Family & Cultural Influences: The Roots of Our Communication

Our families are often our first teachers in how we communicate. I grew up in a family where feedback was direct and unfiltered, often pointing directly at what was wrong and what could be changed. New Zealand exposed me to a culture where feedback is often delivered with a level of subtle indirectness that was truly foreign to me.

By being exposed to a new way of giving and receiving feedback, I've learned that while honesty remains the cornerstone, it lands better with some sugar: empathy, appreciation, and pointing at the parsley in your teeth only if you ask for it.

The journey was a balancing act: between acknowledging where I come from, while embracing where I was, and consciously deciding where I wanted to be.

  • Take a minute to reflect: How has your culture and family approach to communication shaped your own? What do you appreciate? And what would you like to change?

Understanding Each Other

To truly integrate into my new home, I needed to adapt. But recognizing the need for adaptation without losing one's identity, is a delicate dance. I needed to learn how to blend my Argentine fervour, and ‘constructive only’ approach, with the subtle art of Kiwi communication.

On the other hand, my team mates were from different cultures and backgrounds. So we all needed to understand each other’s culture. For example: why I name what doesn’t work first, and why my colleague will avoid a difficult conversation at all cost… We had to build empathy, and to talk about what kind of team culture we wanted to have. When it comes to feedback: what works best for us? what do we need to listen better? and what areas each of us wants to improve on? We had to intentionally build healthier communication and feedback habits, and we had to support each other through that change.

  • Can you think of a time when cultural differences influenced a feedback exchange? How did it affect the outcome, and what would you do differently now?

Bridging the Gap: Theory Versus Practice

Now, making agreements and understanding the theory of ‘good’ feedback was one thing, reading online, learning a method, etc. easy peasy… But practising and getting good at it, is a whole other beast.

After all, ‘Old habits die hard’ they say. It’s because of the Cognitive Dissonance it causes - the discomfort one feels when holding two conflicting beliefs or behaviours. We might intellectually recognise the value of a positive feedback culture, but still fall back on ingrained patterns of behaviour that are misaligned with what we know.

  • Reflect for a moment: When have you felt this dissonance between what you know is best, and what you’re used to doing? What steps can you take to align your actions with your knowledge?

Embracing Change for a Healthier Feedback Culture

Establishing a healthy feedback culture within our teams is not only a matter of theory or procedural change; it demands of us the courage to confront and reshape deep-seated habits and familiar behaviours. We need a blend of self-awareness, collective reflection, empathy, consistent practice, mutual support, and commitment to learning together. By doing so, we lay the foundation for a feedback culture that's not only healthier but truly transformative.

If you want to learn more about Feedback, check out our self-directed course. Packed with short videos, exercises, and reflection prompts to build self-awareness and develop strong feedback practices. It's perfect for learning at your own pace!


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