Connect Follow-up 2: Zoltán Kulcsár, CIB

"Not only is it difficult to ask for and give feedback constructively, but also to receive it'' - Feedback Plus: More, Better!

Zoltán Kulcsár talked about the culture of feedback and the results of the CIB survey in his presentation at Connect Conference, “Feedback Plus: More, Better!” After the conference, we asked a few more questions about this exciting programme: how was it designed, what new areas did they try out, what conclusions did they come to? Connect Follow-up interviews Part 2.

As well as being prepared, motivating, caring about people and communicating openly and transparently, it is also important for a leader to give immediate feedback more often in everyday life and to discuss career opportunities with colleagues during appraisals - among other things, this was also revealed by the surveys of CIB's Feedback Plus: More, Better! We asked Zoltán Kulcsár, HR Development and Programme Office Manager, about the details after Connect.

Why does a company need to learn the culture of feedback? 

We see that in this rapidly changing world, HR practices are also innovating.

The focus is increasingly on frequent, "instant" feedback that motivates and encourages improvement.

If done well, feedback will be a positive, real development supporting experience for staff, and psychological safety will increase, which in turn will have a positive impact on performance. It sounds very simple when you say it, but it's a bit more complicated than that. I'll be happy to give you some examples of why later. 

How and why did you launch the Feedback Plus - More, Better programme?

From the naming of the programme to the podcasts, trainings and the survey, it was all created in an excellent internal professional workshop. We wanted to create a methodologically diverse, content-rich professional programme that would further strengthen our organizational culture based on constructive and qualitative feedback. We wanted to show why repeated, regular and immediate feedback is good, and to provide tried and tested, storm-proof practical tools to improve the quality of feedback. 

How was the programme structured? Please give us a brief introduction to each part!

The Feedback Plus programme is built around 5 main elements. These are the training sessions, the Feedback Master Award, the podcast series, the online library and the survey.

  1. Training sessions

It is clear that training is necessary in a process of change. In the staff training sessions, we looked at how to ask for, receive and give feedback (even to your own manager, which admittedly is not always easy). In the leadership programmes, we looked at the practice of giving and receiving feedback, the Growth Mindset model and coach-type leadership. 

  1. Feedback Master Award

Having broken down the practice of feedback skills into behavioral levels, we also established a leadership award for this. As a result, at the end of 2021, staff were able to nominate their leaders for the 'Feedback Master' award, and the names of the winning leaders were announced at an all staff event. The creation and announcement of the award, the nomination process and the ceremony itself were a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of feedback. 

  1. Podcast series

In parallel, we also launched a podcast series, where organizational development professionals talked about the challenges of feedback and the leaders who have won the Feedback Master Award shared the secrets of their success. Of course, we didn't become professional podcasters, but we stepped out of our comfort zone and really enjoyed making the podcasts, because we hadn't done that before. 

  1. Online library 

By writing and publishing professional background material, we have created quite an online professional library on the subject, where our colleagues can read about international benchmarking trends and the subjectivity of feedback, among other things. My personal favourite from this series is the presentation of 11 tools that go beyond training to help managers develop their staff.

  1.  Survey 

To make this programme a success and achieve real change, we also wanted to map out the level of our feedback culture. We developed our own questionnaire to gather colleagues' experiences, suggestions and insights on feedback, and shared the results for the first time at a Feedback Plus online leadership conference.

What were the main lessons and results of your own Feedback Plus survey?

We implemented the online survey at the beginning of 2022 and 960 colleagues shared their feedback experiences and suggestions. 

85 percent of our colleagues reported that their manager is prepared to conduct the assessment and takes sufficient time to do so. 

76% felt that their manager motivates and encourages them and provides the right support, alongside developmental feedback, to ensure that they make real progress. 

84% of respondents felt that their line manager cared about them as a person, and 81% felt that their manager's communication was open and transparent. 

While these results were generally pleasing, the responses also showed that in future appraisals, managers should spend more time discussing career opportunities for colleagues. That said, the results also showed that colleagues would welcome more immediate feedback from managers on a day-to-day basis. And this aligns nicely with the objectives of our Feedback Plus programme. 

You mentioned that you have also defined at a behavioral level what and how a successful leader does in this area. Can you share some examples of these?

Gladly! Without being exhaustive, we consider the following to be the most important:

  • Provide regular feedback, taking into account the needs and preferences of your colleagues.
  • Notice and acknowledge when colleagues perform well, put in extra effort or have made improvements.
  • When problems arise, provide feedback in a clear and constructive way to promote change.
  • Your feedback, whether it reinforces or improves, should enhance colleagues' self-esteem and sense of comfort.
  • You know your colleagues' career goals and key motivations and support them in their development.
  • Not only give feedback, but also regularly seek feedback from subordinate colleagues.
  • Be open to feedback and take it into account in your management activities.
  • Know and apply the main rules of feedback (gives feedback on performance and behavior, never on personality, non-judgemental, etc.).
  • Your feedback does not remain at the level of "generalities", but uses concrete examples.
  • Your feedback is forward-looking, not only pointing out what needs to be improved, but also helping to identify concrete ways in which the colleague can improve

At the beginning of our conversation you mentioned giving us some examples of why it's important to develop and learn a culture of feedback. 

Not only asking for feedback, giving it in a good rhythm and constructive way, but also receiving it is not as easy as it seems at first. Now, in the evenings, I read the brilliant book by Éva Janikovszky to my preschooler. I might add that the film made from it is one of my childhood favorites. One of the inescapable characters in That Lovely Green Grass is Uncle Dezső (full name: Dezső Dezső), formerly a cavalry soldier in the war, now a goldsmith's horse toolmaker. But what do we learn about how Uncle Dezső receives feedback? "Uncle Dezső was a very tough man, no one ever saw him cry. Not at the barber's, not at the dentist's, not in the war. There was only one thing that Uncle Dezső found hard to listen to with dry eyes: what a good man he was." 

The other is a story of my own, which I mentioned in my Connect presentation. It is about how harsh, negative feedback can bring satisfaction to the person who receives it. When I was in high school in the 90s, during our rebellious era, two friends and I started a punk band. It's not worth much, my CV doesn't mention it. The band only played one gig, which was in a high school club in Budapest. They didn't have to put up a full house sign at the entrance for sure, and the sound quality was not up to current standards either, but we didn't mind, and in the evening we got into the songs we had practiced in rehearsals. At the third song, two teachers from the faculty meeting two floors above us rushed into the club and told us to stop this rattling immediately and never come in here again. The concert stopped, and after some harsh critical feedback we were actually pleased and happy. After all, what kind of punk band would we have been if we didn’t even get banned?

Register and watch Zoltán Kulcsár's “Feedback Plus: More, Better!” Connect presentation:

(The video is only available in Hungarian!)

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