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#9 - Ready, Set... Feedback!

And off we go! Facing one of the most challenging conversations a manager can have with an employee. I’ve had many such conversations over the years, and even in my own consulting work, these happen often. 
Sometime ago, I had to have one with a collaborator who was missing deadlines, something that was never an issue before.  I also noticed the quality of her work declined, needing frequent revisions, and not to mention diverting my time away from what I was supposed to accomplish. I admit I was frustrated by this turn. I was also hurt and puzzled that a person I’ve come to rely on for excellent, creative work, had checked out… or so it seemed like it to me. A feedback conversation was in order, and quickly.
BUT before bolting out of the starting gate with a flurry of complaints, I like to keep a few things in mind, things that keep me anchored. The first and most important one is the difference between ‘Feedback’ and ‘Performance Review’.
In my many conversations with managers, the two terms are often used interchangeably. There is some overlap, but there are key differences and it’s important for both manager and employee to understand this.  In fact, being clear with your employee about which type of conversation you are engaging in will go a long way in keeping the channels of communication open during and after.

In general, a performance assessment:
  • Happens once a year.
  • Includes rating scales for achieving work objectives and core competencies.
  • Involves an informal mid-year review.
Eureka it’s done! We exclaim as we wipe our brow.  Let’s move onto to something else.  Ask yourself: Was anything actually resolved?  Will this lead to a change for the better as far as my employee’s performance and/or attitude.
And that’s where feedback comes in. The goal of feedback is for both you and your employee to engage in a respectful yet genuine conversation addressing what is actually going on, with the goal of finding a real solution. 

So a feedback conversation:
  • Takes place over time.
  • Is accomplished in small doses (several small installments).
  • Keeps the line of communication open.
  • Deals with one issue over one or more conversation.
I like to think of Feedback as Feeding-back: giving both manager and employee an opportunity to clear the air, be honest with and respectful of each other, and grow from the exchange. I also want to keep the feedback conversation focused by just approaching one topic, even if there are five… I find that a lot easier for both me and my employee to agree on and keep track of next steps.
In sum, ‘Feedback’ and ‘Performance Assessment’ are not meant to be interchangeable. Better yet, they are complimentary.  An underperforming employee needs to be made aware of the impact of their behavior, and there needs to be clear consequences for lack of action as well. The goal however is to involve the employee in the conversation about performance over time. And remember every conversation is a two way street:  I’ve had employees educate me about my managerial style over the years. Not always what I expected to hear, it has definitely helped me become a better manager.
Giving feedback is such a crucial part of creating a productive and satisfying work environment, I’m dedicating September tips to this timely topic.  Establishing a two way conversation, over time, that supports an employee in shifting behaviors, or admitting that they’re unhappy with their current job, will go a long way in determining a course of action that works best for both of you.
So stay tuned!

~ Dominique
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