How to Foster a Culture of Improvement

How to Foster a Culture of Improvement

Do this and your business will fly!’

Feedback! The key to improving performance. And yet so many people feel awkward about giving it or shy away from it altogether. So why do people find it so difficult? Perhaps you’re one of them. You may be the person who makes a joke of everything or someone who says, ‘Well, they know what I think from my body language.’

We all approach feedback differently. To those of us who have a British upbringing, feedback can often be seen as awkward, negative & confrontational. We see giving feedback as daunting. For me, the only reason to give feedback is to inspire improved performance. ‘Inspire’ is the key word. You want people to be walking away thinking, ‘I know how I’m going to do it better next time now,’ and wanting do just that.

So how do we deliver that? Let’s take a look at ways of giving feedback which will remove the angst. There are two methods. There’s informal feedback – the ongoing, day to day feedback, and then there is the formal performance management to back that up.

Informal Feedback

Find someone doing something good everyday!

Ongoing, day to day, when someone in your team is doing really well, you want to showcase and highlight that to the rest of the team. Have a philosophy of ‘trying to acknowledge someone doing something good, each day.’ Publicly acknowledge the event and explain why you’re pleased – perhaps it positively impacts a customer or the rest of the team and so forth. It’s all about positive reinforcement – you want more of this.

Spot learning opportunities everyday!

Don’t just walk past the bad stuff. Don’t allow it to happen without addressing it – nip it in the bud. Inaction does nothing to sort the problem and worse still, erodes the trust and respect of the other team members if they think you’ve let it slide. This, if you like, is ‘just in time’ coaching where you again, on a daily basis, seek out learning opportunities. In these circumstances just have a quiet word, there is no need for public humiliation. This time ask the person ‘why’ – ‘Why is this not acceptable?’ Give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves and see the effects of their behaviour. ‘When you said that to John, how do you think it made him feel?’ If they can work it out for themselves they will take it onboard more than if you simply lecture them. Make it a genuine learning experience.

The EEC Model

Within the McFreedom System we talk about the EEC model.



Continue or Change – ‘Continue’ if it’s something really good or ‘Change’ if it’s something not so good.


What’s caused me to comment on the way you’re working? Maybe the way you answer the phone, maybe the way you spoke to a client, maybe the way you completed a piece of work. What is the reason I’m talking to you?


What effect has it had on me, on the client, on the business, the team? Is it a good effect or not so good? Did you forget to smile when you answered the phone, making your voice sound sombre and moody? Did you complete this piece of work, but it wasn’t absolutely spot on in terms of accuracy? Did you get a great customer review?

and then either Continue

‘Thanks so much. You did a great job. Loved the way you’ve got absolutely every detail correct, keep going with that. Customer x was thrilled with that. Do more; continue.’

or Change

When it’s something that you want to correct, then you’re talking about how you want somebody to change their performance. What can they do differently? What do they need to do to be up to standard? Give people the chance to get things right next time.

Formal Feedback

When it comes to formal feedback, remember that nothing should ever be a surprise. All of the informal feedback that you’ve given feeds into your formal, sit down performance review. We recommend that you do formal performance reviews at the end of each quarter. That you make it routine. It’s a chance to sit down with your team member to talk to them about the great things they’re doing, and to inspire them to do even better.

Many people shy away from that whole idea of sitting down with each team member. Either that, or they only sit down with them when something bad has happened and they want to tell them off. No wonder their team members dread the call, it’s like when I was little, our dogs hated the car because the only time they got in it was to go to the vets! When you make delivering feedback routine, it becomes a more positive interaction between you and your team. It becomes a conversation, a discussion. ‘How can I do this better? How can I improve? I really want to improve, how can I do it?’

Encourage your people to keep their own development journals

This will become a useful tool for development because it will help to highlight where your team would like to go, how they want to improve, and what they need from you in order to achieve this.

Encourage them to jot down the things they did really well, their ‘Proud Page’.

To note when things didn’t go to plan – what were their learning points; if they had some training or coaching – what three things would they do differently next time as a result, their ‘Learning Page’.

Their ‘Aspirations Page’ – what challenges would they like, what training/development would help them get there.

The formal appraisal should be their story – you just need to listen. Then ask these question, ‘What do you need from me? What can I do differently that would help you?’ That is how to build trust.

People are more likely to ask for support if you’ve made this whole performance management system part of ‘the way we do things around here’. The way we do things round here is we give honest and open feedback, whether something is good, or needs to be improved. We are always honest and open; though honest doesn’t mean brutal! Make that part of your culture, and you have a real picture of continuous improvement. Everybody always looking to do that little bit better to make that marginal gain.

Do this and your business will fly.

Do two things:

1. Diarise those 90 day formal review slots now and make it routine.

2. Hand out development journals with a ‘How to’ for their use.

Thanks for reading 🙂


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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