Consistent feedback creates continuous improvement
This year, Fathom Consulting celebrates 20 years in business. In addition to happenings planned throughout the year, we’re sharing a series of blog posts celebrating what’s led to our success over the last two decades while looking forward to the years to come.
For years I’ve walked around our office spouting one of my favorite phrases, “feedback is a gift!” And I truly believe it. When someone takes the time to give you honest feedback—and you take the time to reflect upon it—growth always follows. Since our founding, it’s become clear to me that high-performing team members crave regular feedback to fuel their own professional growth and improvement. As the team at Fathom Consulting consists of high performers, feedback has become a core component of our culture.
Like many other organizations, giving and receiving feedback underpins our formal annual review and recognition processes. But since once-a-year feedback isn’t enough to satisfy our team, we also work to build in additional time throughout the year, including:
- Biannual, formal peer reviews
- Regular, two-way feedback with clients during projects
- Presentation dry runs and deliverable reviews with peers
- Client surveys at the end of projects
- Facilitated post-project discussions with team members
Sharing feedback isn’t easy …
Our organizational values include collaboration, candor, and integrity—all of which are required for team members to give open and authentic feedback. Our values also include flexibility, which means our consultants must be willing to adapt and grow based on feedback they receive. But in a notoriously nice Midwestern locale, it can be challenging to get people comfortable with giving and receiving feedback. There’s a skill to doing so in an effective way, and we practice as much as we can.
In giving feedback, we work on ensuring our comments are specific and actionable, timely, and offered in the spirit of helping another person grow. When considering how and when to give feedback, we assume that the other person is looking for ways to improve their performance and skills and will value our observations and reflections as part of their development.
In receiving feedback—especially feedback that we didn’t expect or don’t agree with—we assume (and acknowledge) positive intent. We encourage each other to consider what we can take away from the feedback—how we might use it to listen, understand, and improve.
… but it is worth it.
After years of practicing together, we’ve learned that solid feedback strengthens our:
- Consulting skills. Sometimes we have to deliver tough messages on a project, get people from varying perspectives to align, or diplomatically challenge our clients (and each other)—which are all forms of offering feedback in service of creating an exceptional product.
- Team dynamics. It’s true that innovation happens when happy people fight. Having a team of homogenous thinkers is dangerous. Feedback helps us tackle things head on and avoid allowing things to fester. It helps us to grow and develop individually and as a team.
By practicing getting and giving feedback in many formats, we normalize it a bit—it becomes expected. Yet, having feedback so present in our daily work still isn’t easy. We’re not perfect at it; sometimes there are hurt feelings and frustrations. However, in the end, this team of high performers enjoys the opportunity to improve, and to help our teammates to do the same.