How Whole Foods Succeeds by Being Authentic

How Whole Foods Succeeds by Being Authentic

Trust is key to successful organizations around the world. Trust creates the backbone for organizations to implement change and supports the cultural infrastructure to allow people to push for change with a conviction that the organization supports them. In the latest Freakonomics podcast episode with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey we learn first-hand how John only provides negative, or if framed correctly, construct feedback with employees with whom he has a “high degree of trust”.

Great cultures create change and growth. They can implement change from market research insights, positive or negative, because of the cradle of trust they have built up within the organization’s support nets.

“People do far better with positive feedback, praise and appreciation. So, that should be the emphasis. But if we’re not also giving the necessary tough but constructive feedback, then we’ll be doing a disservice to our team and to the team members.”

People are simply more willing to accept harsher feedback if it is coming from an individual with whom they have a high degree of trust. Positive feedback, whether it be feedback on a performance review, a new product concept, or a customer experience score, is always welcome and helps build trust and morale. However, the times where customer experience falls short, or the new product concept isn’t quite ready for prime-time, is when the negative feedback is required.  John advises doing it sparingly, and always doing it “one-on-one.”

John follows this up with more exceptional advice:

 “If you do enough positive reinforcement, people are going to be in a place where they can receive the critical feedback. And that gives you permission to give negative feedback. That’s actionable.”

Gathering feedback and insights from customers, employees, or even management is bound to unearth simple unpleasant realities.  But organizations that have successfully laid the framework over time to create a culture of authenticity are generally able to more quickly implement changes and outperform themselves thereafter. Next time you undergo a market research project, make sure to ask yourself; have we laid the groundwork of trust to ensure we can actually implement the needed changes?