News & Insight
February 2003

Your Career Path to Success: The Art of Giving Feedback

Bill Morin<br/> Chairman & CEO<br/> WJM Associates

Does anyone like giving feedback?

No one enjoys telling other people they are not meeting expectations, yet that is something managers must learn to do if they want to advance and become corporate leaders. There is a right way and a wrong way to give feedback. The key is to give constant feedback -- both affirmative and corrective -- and to give it close to the time of the event.

Among executives I have coached, most lament that not only is the feedback they receive negative, lacking in objectivity and absent of any specifics, it also is rarely given on a timely basis. One executive I know said he once got feedback about something he had done two years after the fact!

When people receive surprises of this nature, it destroys trust. They feel they have been blindsided, especially if they receive feedback for the first time during an annual performance review.

There is no rule that says you have to give feedback a specific number of times, but it should be more than just once or twice a year. It's a good idea, too, to get in the habit of giving people affirmative feedback. Someone I know once worked for a boss who always returned memos with a handwritten "Nice work" or "Good job" at the top. That individual says he never felt more appreciated, even though his supervisor didn't often speak to him about his performance.

Here are five questions to help you determine if you are giving your people enough feedback:

  1. Have I withheld any important information from the person, which is causing me to interact with him or her in a negative fashion?
  2. Does each person appear to be comfortable and at ease with me, or is there an apparent strain in the relationship? Does it feel as though the person is withholding something from me?
  3. Do I periodically take time to sit down with each person and talk only about his or her performance and development? Or are all of our conversations directly related to the task at hand?
  4. When I give performance reviews, are people surprised by what they see on the form? Are they hearing it for the first time?
  5. Do I have a track record of developing and promoting people? Are my people moving on to bigger and better things?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you are probably not giving or receiving enough feedback. To get that feedback, simply ask the members of your staff. They will be happy to tell you.

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