4 Impediments to Nurturing a Feedback-Rich Culture | TechWell

4 Impediments to Nurturing a Feedback-Rich Culture

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Being able to have open, candid conversations that fuel learning, growth, and improvement is critical to a team’s success, so it is important to look out for impediments that can get in the way of having a feedback-rich culture. Below are four common impediments you should try to alleviate.

1. A Defensive Mindset to Feedback

The first impediment is how we respond to feedback. Typically, a person will have either a defensive or an accepting mindset.

People with a defensive tendency believe that our abilities are talents and traits we’re born with, and that those talents and traits are unlikely to change. They strive to prove themselves to others using their existing skills. They tend to avoid feedback and criticism and usually select tasks at which they can look good and succeed.

2. Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is the fear that someone doesn’t really belong in their role and that they will be discovered and fail, despite all evidence to the contrary. The feeling of being an imposter lowers self-confidence and may cause the person to withdraw from engaging in the conversation and participating in innovative thinking. 

When people don’t feel confident about their thoughts and ideas, they are less likely to contribute their ideas, which leads to less creativity and innovation for the team and organization. Any feedback given to a person experiencing imposter syndrome will likely elicit a defensive reaction.

3. Prove-It-Again Bias

Prove-it-again bias is where a person’s competence is constantly (and unfairly) questioned, eroding their self-confidence. In these cases, individuals find that they have to provide more evidence of competence in order to be seen as equally competent—usually because the individual isn’t “fitting” our mental model or assumption of someone who is competent in the subject matter.

4. A Fixed Mindset

Those with a fixed mindset believe that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static and can’t change in any meaningful way.

They will still strive for success, but only by focusing on “safe” activities at which they are less likely to fail. They avoid failure at all costs because of their need to maintain their sense of being smart or skilled. They’ll avoid challenges, give up, see effort as unproductive, and ignore helpful negative feedback. The success of others will also threaten them. They have a deterministic view of the world.

Move Past the Impediments

Let’s be aware of these impediments and work to evolve our team environments to enable accepting and growth mindsets. People with an accepting tendency tend to focus on improving, learning, and effort. They look for new challenges and desire feedback because they’re accepting of criticism. Those with a growth mindset also thrive on challenges, and they see failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as a springboard for growth and stretching existing abilities. We must foster these mindsets while also being mindful of individuals who are experiencing imposter syndrome and prove-it-again bias so that we can provide the support they need.

Joanna Vahlsing is presenting the session Removing Impediments and Cultivating a Culture of Feedback at Agile Dev, Better Software & DevOps West 2018, June 3–8 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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