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Steve, you raise some sound suggestions, especially the ideas of taking more control of the process as an employee and changing the language from "feedback" to conversation. The idea of feedback in the business world has gotten to be so institutionalized and rigorous that it seems almost more like a punchline than a meaningful business process (plus, I believe it likely appears on many of those "bull**** bingo" cards that one can use at a meeting to entertain himself).

Having just done this myself as an employee (having a discussion with my manager to discuss not only performance but how to align my development needs with the company's objectives), I can certainly say that taking more control of your destiny in this manner certainly helps to reduce stress. In the worst case, it reduces the uncertainty that can make your future path unclear, which in turn makes it harder to make career decisions.

Rodney Johnson

Steve, I know you're not a fan of CBS's Undercover Boss, neither am I. However, when I do watch it, I'm amazed at how weak the feedback loops up to the CEO tend to be. Feedback is one of the most important, integral and overlooked tools inside many organizations.

Travis Branzell

My favorite are the managers that drop feedback on you when you have your performance review. Especially negative feedback. It seems as though some managers notice flaws in your performance, but let it build up or don't express the importance of how it directly and indirectly effects the flow of work until you sit down with them for your performance review....when it could have been solved much earlier if the manager had taken the initiative to discuss it as soon as it happened. People, not just managers, don't like confrontation or to be told that they aren't meeting expectations. That's just human nature. But, as a manager, if you commonly provide negative and positive feedback to your subordinates, that uncomfortable confrontation will eventually become more comfortable and your subordinates will more likely learn from the feedback rather than feel as though you are taking a shot at them. Approach is everything of course. Refining your approach on how you express negative feedback to individuals so they perceive the message as something they should learn from rather than perceive it as you, the manager, exercising your power is very important, and this can easily be achieved.

Travis Branzell

As a subordinate, it doesn't hurt to ask for feedback too.

Monica Diaz

Steve, yes! We have kind of turned the word "feedback" into a bad word in the corporate setting. Then people are like: "Oh, boy...she's going to give me feedback!" So, they brace themselves. Nothing less conducive to being effective in improving performance! ;) I love your antidote! If we all follow those four tips, there is no need even for the word, it becomes a part of being committed together in achieving what we want, in doing our best, in supporting eachother every day. People who like to think together, who can come to eachother with their shortcomings, who can recognize the positive in eachother, will naturally generate the trust necessary for effective conversations about performance on a daily basis that are welcomed and sought out by both parties.

Steve Roesler

Greg,

You've nailed it with the "take control of your destiny" line. In fairness to managers at "development discussion time," the best ones can help you see your real talents but still need to know what the employee wants out of a career. The very best companies teach the employees, as well as the managers, how to have that conversation.

Steve Roesler

Rodney,

Nah, I'm not a fan except in the "What the heck was that?!" sense.

Every successful CEO I've ever worked with created ways to find out, first hand, what was going on continually. Even in the largest companies.

At first blush, these shows reflect poorly on exactly what you mention: the feedback loop. If an executive has to wait until approached by a "reality" show to find out what's going on, the show should be named "Underqualified CEO."

Steve Roesler

Travis,

The semi-annual or annual "dump" only satisfies a policy requirement; it does nothing, as you mention, to help performance when most needed.

What we know for a fact: performance improves with frequency and accuracy of feedback.

Accurate feedback 6 months after the fact isn't very useful and feels like a "gotcha", eh?

Steve Roesler

Monica,

Thanks for the affirmation on this topic. It did come about as a result of watching people in client organizations automatically tense up and assume the worse when they heard they were going to get some "feedback." There fears are actually well-founded, because too many managers at all levels:

a. Only deliver critical information
b. Wait until too long after the fact for the person to legitimately change what needed to change

Employees, especially younger ones, want bosses who see themselves as coaches. When that change becomes real, we'll see a change in the attitude toward performance conversations.

Thanks, Monica.

Chris Young

Great post Steve - Fostering conversations and not forcing feedback is a powerful shift in mindset that can bring about amazing change. Thanks for sharing!

I've included your post in my top five blog picks of the week (found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2010/04/the-rainmaker-fab-five-blog-picks-of-the-week.html) to help my readers change their mindset towards performance management.

Be well!

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