The Gift of Feedback.


AUTHOR'S NOTE:  "Performance Management" has been handled differently everywhere I have worked.  We all talk about how important it is -- and it is!  But it is always a time-consuming and people deal with it inconsistently which only hurts the people who need and deserve feedback.  I sent this note to try and motivate my team to make time for feedback.

As always, I have removed proprietary information.

I suspect many of you, like me, have become VERY familiar with Success Factors, our very own Performance Management Tool. My “To Do” list was very long, and admittedly, a bit overwhelming these last few weeks. 

It always helps me when I am feeling crushed by tasks to remind myself of why I am doing them in the first place. For me, cleaning out my closet allows me to justify buying new clothes! Nagging my son (relentlessly) to get his homework done increases the potential scholarship. You get my drift. Having a purpose makes everything easier to do.

In thinking about the purpose of the common review it was easiest to go to the obvious. A common review allows us to focus much more sharply on performance. And getting better performance from all of us will make us a better agency.

But there’s another purpose of our review – and one that I think is just as important as helping the agency get better. 

The gift of feedback.

Taking the time to provide feedback is important and truly is a uniquely personal gift for the recipient. But like all gifts (and you know I can’t get through an On the Rocks without metaphors) the gift is only as good as the thought behind it. I can always tell when my Mother’s Day card was purchased at Walgreen’s on that Sunday morning. So while I appreciate the effort, when I read the message (or struggle to read because sometimes all that are left are Spanish language cards) I don’t bother interpreting the sentiment. On the other hand, when I get a handwritten card I truly believe that I am the best mother in the world.

With thoughtful and meaningful feedback we can feel good about things we are doing or choices we have made. We might also learn about some things we might not feel so good about. I know throughout my own career I have been both happy and horrified by feedback when it is shared – but I have always been grateful for it and learned from it. And not only was it important to my effectiveness in my job, it was important to me personally.

Staying true to my gift metaphor, it is no secret that I love to shop. I pleasure when I find something at some random art fair that is so perfect for someone that I don’t want to wait for Christmas or his or her birthday – so I just give it. Not only do I get instant gratification, so does the recipient.

We need to think of giving thoughtful feedback in the same way. It is expected and necessary for us to do it in the common review timeframe. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until then. Sharing feedback – what is going well and what is not and identifying where there are opportunities to learn and grow – is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other in the workplace.

And that will make us a better agency.