Are you getting any real feedback on your performance at work?
In How Not To Manage People, David Maister cites the results of a survey of CPA's with four to seven years' experience. David specializes in professional service firms and is always in tune with what's happening. The survey data are available, according to David, at this site.
"Interestingly, the three most important atrributes of firm culture in the eyes of the respondents were:
- Ethical leadership in the firm (only 55% of firms were rated very good!)
- Work / Life Balance â Family friendly Policies (38% of firms rated very good)
- High quality feedback, supervision and performance management (13% of firms rated very good!)
What ARE these firms thinking of? What IS going on out there?"
I don't know the full answer to that question. But I have recently become aware of one creepy phenomenon:
Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment
1. About 6 months ago, I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very general way and sort of shuffled and said "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."
2. January brought about another coaching request at the executive level. Similar initial conversation, similar response, same "360 feedback tool" suggestion.
3. Two weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."
These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.
My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the known need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly.
If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:
Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship that we look to when making decisions about what to do and how to do it on-the-job! (If that is a new notion to you, start with a look at Wally Bock's post about Managers and Developing Talent).
Dealing With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching
If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.
What to do?
I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them. That the coaching would be viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.
The result? Each one agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.
So the first coaching session was with the boss to create the specific feedback and practice giving it.
And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.
What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.
Getting back to David's post: What can we do to get the other 87% of firms to give employees the kind of feedback they want and need before the employees are accused of being "disengaged" and sent off to a program for "remedial engagement?"
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