From The

Balcony

From The

Balcony

From The

Balcony

“Real People. Real Reviews.” Creating a Culture of Positive Feedback

I moved into a new neighborhood earlier this week and after a long day of lugging furniture and boxes up stairs, I excitedly hopped on Yelp to find my new, local Korean BBQ hotspot.  With a swipe of my finger, I had access to 38 opinions for six different restaurants. I read through the reviews, made an informed decision, and headed to Yi’s BBQ, excited to try their kalbi.

It is remarkable to me what Yelp has accomplished. In a culture of “keep your comments to yourself”, they have normalized customer feedback and business accountability. Customers have a free and easy way to let businesses know about their experiences, and when stars translate to a 5-9% effect on revenues, this public accountability has changed the way that companies do business.  

So what if you could leave a Yelp review for people, just like we do for businesses? What if my friends, colleagues, teachers, neighbors, baristas, and bank tellers could write about their interactions with me in a forum that anyone could read? What would they say? How many stars would they give me? More importantly, would I be happy with what I saw?

I dream about this world, but I doubt our society is prepared to handle such unfiltered feedback (*see footnote). We have been conditioned to view feedback as an attack on areas of weakness instead of an investment in areas of growth. Giving and receiving thoughtful, constructive feedback is a crucial part of growing as a leader, but we rarely talk about how to do either. So how can we accomplish this? By creating a culture of personal feedback. It is always hard to hear feedback if it isn’t provided constructively, but feedback done right has the potential to be a game changer in our personal and professional development.

Here is what you can do to contribute to a positive culture of feedback:

  1. Identify barriers that make it hard for you to receive feedback. Are you afraid of letting others see your shortcomings? Are you unsure about how to begin a conversation around feedback? Do you have limited time for meaningful feedback conversations and would rather move on to the next task? Name your own barriers and begin to remove them.
  2. Figure out how you like to receive feedback and tell others.  Do you like to receive it verbally or in written form? Do you want it in the moment of do you want to receive it after you’ve had time to reflect on your personal performance? Do you like it in person or over email?  
  3. Reframe feedback as a gift. People are taking time out of their day to let you know how you are doing. Assume that feedback is coming from a place of care. Even if the feedback is negative, they are helping you become your best self!
  4. Normalize feedback.  Regularly ask for it from a wide variety of people. Make it a habit and model it for others in your life.
  5. Ask others how they want to receive feedback. Honor them by giving them feedback in their preferred method. This might not always be possible, but make a solid effort to do so.
  6. Practice feedback. Giving and receiving feedback can be a difficult skill to cultivate.  Like any skill, it gets easier with time.

It is important to remember that it is impossible to make everyone happy. As a self-proclaimed people-pleaser, I wrestle with this unrealistic expectation daily. Some Yelp reviewers have terrible days and take their frustration out on you. Take these reviews with a grain of salt. The goal of living your life as if others could review you on Yelp is not to make everyone happy. It’s impossible to be your best self all the time, and that’s okay. I repeat, THAT’S OKAY. However, the negative reviews should be the exception, not the norm. If you only receive negative ‘reviews’, stop dismissing them and start making changes. Feedback done right will help us all to correct actions that will make us better, and preserve our relationships at the same time.  

  1. In 2015, a controversial ‘Yelp for People’ app was released. The app was met with widespread backlash from the public and the media, voicing very real concerns about bullying and harassment.

*Leadership Lesson*

Implement the six steps for creating a culture of positive feedback (above) with your own group!


*Meet the Author*

Kristen Vega is the Coordinator of Greek Life and Community Engagement at California State University, Monterey Bay. When she isn’t developing student leaders, she can be found hiking in Big Sur, reading non-fiction in a local coffee shop, teaching tap classes, or pretending she is a contestant on Chopped.