Why we encourage a transparent feedback culture (and you should too)

How the "micro-yes" and "deblurring" can change your feedback culture

4-minute read


According to a Gallup survey (2011), companies that give their employees regular feedback have 14.9% lower turnover than companies that don’t. So we know how important feedback can be. The truth is that the ways to give feedback are as varied as the companies and humans who give that feedback. Maybe your managers are responsible for giving feedback to their direct reports, or maybe you pull for anonymous feedback from other employees during the review process. There’s no truly “wrong” way to gather feedback, but there are some exceptionally right ones — and after partnering with more than 200,000 managers, we’re here to talk about them.

There’s been some conversation recently in our People Ops community surrounding blind performance reviews — is it better to ensure that managers aren’t swayed by seeing who their direct reports’ feedback comes from, or is it more helpful for managers to see who the feedback is from, including self-assessments, so they can use that information to give a more informed review?

At LifeLabs Learning, we encourage a transparent feedback culture, which looks like giving and asking for feedback from our team directly as often as we want. With constant feedback, you and your team can quickly learn, adjust, calibrate to one another’s preferences, and reach your goals.

Here’s how to start fostering a feedback-friendly environment at your company: 

1) Wait for the “micro-yes”

Being taken by surprise actually spikes our emotions, both positive and negative, by 400%. That’s why we encourage getting a “micro-yes” from someone before dropping directly into a conversation where you’re giving them feedback — especially if it’s difficult. A micro-yes moment gives the other person the chance to opt-in to a conversation, which in turn removes the element of surprise and makes them more receptive to hearing your feedback. This is especially important when the stakes of the conversation feel high, like when doing a performance review or looking over anonymous feedback.

Your turn! Here are some question prompts you can use to get a micro-yes:

  • “Would you be up for hearing my thoughts on your presentation?”
  • “Can I give you my feedback on the product launch?”
  • “Is now a good time to debrief about how that meeting went?”
  • “How do you feel about starting our performance review now?”

2) Keep it clean

When giving or receiving feedback, most people have a tendency to use words that mean different things to different people — something we call “Blur words.” We’re only human, and it’s natural for us to make automatic interpretations when we hear phrases like “putting in the effort,” or “showing up.” Unfortunately, those are subjective concepts that have unique meaning to different people. One person’s idea of what “putting in the effort” means may look vastly different from their manager’s. When this sort of blurry mixup happens, both parties are at risk of misunderstanding what next steps might look like

To avoid Blur words, especially when giving feedback, focus only on behavior that a camera could capture. Talking “cleanly” means removing the interpretation entirely. Instead of a manager saying, “you’re not putting in enough effort, your response time is much worse than average,” they would simply report what they’re seeing in a data-focused way: “this past month, your response time was 30 minutes, and our team standard is 10 minutes.” When the data is clean, it's easier to diagnose the root cause and move forward with transparency. 

Your turn! Practice de-blurring with a day of “clean talking.”

For one day, make a point of noticing if you are hearing data (only what a camera would capture) or interpretation. Talk as cleanly as possible all day, mentally taking note of any blur words you use and converting them into data.  Pay special attention to the positive feedback you give. If you catch yourself saying “Good job,” can you add more specific details? 

Interested in learning more about creating a transparent feedback culture? The Leader Lab book is packed with science-backed strategies that can help you and your team become truly great leaders, and you can pre-order it through September 10th for 50% off.