How Do You Develop a Culture of Feedback?

roles and responsibilities the board/ceo partnership Jun 20, 2022
Develop a culture of feedback, not criticism


Develop a culture of and for feedback.

In the context of a Board as a whole, culture and feedback can take many forms. There is of course the culture of the Boardroom itself, some being more open to assessment and feedback than others. Then there is the partnership between the Chair and the Chief Executive Officer. Individual board members also provide feedback, to each other (beyond parking lot chatter!), as well as to the Chair and to the CEO.


Let’s start then “at the top”.
Strong organizations have strong Board/CEO partnerships, and this is personified by the Chair. Mutual trust and respect of course. A safe space for raising concerns and doubts. A protector and yes, a critic too.


Relationships are important as lines are often blurred. The CEO reports to the Board but meets most regularly with the Chair. The Chair position changes regularly, sometimes even annually.


Partnerships can be built when there is not only trust and transparency but also self-awareness, self-confidence and self-efficacy. A commitment to continuing to improve, with defensiveness is crucial.


We often forget that we want each other to be successful and that is the context for any feedback. (The nature of the feedback was reviewed in a previous blog post.)


It is especially useful to know each other's goals and aspirations to be able to support them.


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If feedback is based on performance, and performance is based on the job and work environment, clear expectations are required. This is based on a position profile, current job description, and annual work plans – for both paid CEOs and volunteer chairs. All of this of course is a driving force in achieving the organization’s mission and strategic plan.


Well, what might modeling at this level look like?


Ask for advice. Request assistance and support.

Start with your one-on-one meetings.

The Chair and CEO should work toward a culture of inquiry and assessment. Ask the questions. Seek feedback. Value comprehensive reviews of programs and services as well as performance.

Performance? Of course, there is regular and ongoing feedback to each other and a formal annual review for the CEO.

But insist on regular Board assessments, at least annually. Regular chair assessments, best mid-term when changes can occur not at the end of a term. Regular individual board member assessments, again annually or mid-term. There are many methods and instruments available. Just ask us.

And always solicit feedback…

At the end of a meeting… How did we do tonight? What went well? What were the problem areas? Did everyone have an opportunity to contribute? Did everyone feel heard? How could I have managed the meeting differently or better?

If concerned about honesty, name a “process observer” to critique the meeting and offer suggestions consistent with your ground rules.

Without reiterating previous work, suffice to say that feedback is about behaviours, not people. Behaviours, not personalities. It requires examples and actionable recommendations.

Take the feedback as advice or a request.
Model the behaviour you want to see for inquiry, assessment, and feedback.
Encourage it throughout the organization.

And step it up and connect the culture of and for feedback with a culture of coaching. See previous blogs for guidance!


What do you find is the most challenging aspect of creating a culture of feedback in your organization? Get in touch and let us know. If you have specific questions or are looking for advice, we are happy to answer you confidentially. 



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