One more option for providing feedback to manager: 3rd Party Assessment and Coaching

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I have recently written a series of articles on the topic of how managers obtain feedback on how they manage. Conclusion:  It’s spotty.  I’ve also recently published a series of articles on how employees can give feedback to managers.  Conclusion:  It’s possible, but takes a lot of work.  Even the people who would best be able to give feedback, the manager’s employees, have to go through many machinations just to get to the point of providing corrective feedback, and it still isn’t without the associated risks of recrimination over time.  Boo to that!

This is an important topic, because receiving performance feedback on how you are doing a job is a critical component for obtaining minimally acceptable performance, and then  — let’s aspire to this — accelerating to high performance.  Getting better at what you do simply isn’t possible without some sort of systematic performance feedback mechanism.

So that leaves one more option to consider:  Bringing in a 3rd Party.

Let’s take another look at the grid of options for how managers receive feedback on being a manager (initially published in How to give feedback to your manager:  Some possible openings). 

In this analysis, you can see that each option is flawed.  In looking at this list, we can see the weakness of these options if we add other elements of providing feedback to a manager:

“Is the feedback systematic and ongoing?”

“Is the feedback based on best practices/what is expected in job performance or is it ad-hoc based on the whims of the feedback provider?”

“Is the feedback given using behavior-based terms instead of generalizations or value judgments?”

In none of these options do we see a realistic way for managers to obtain good feedback about what they are doing well and what they should be doing differently.  They are left to their own devices to figure out what is working, or they have to rely on lagging indicators of team output, such as sales, budget variances, project outcomes, operational metrics, product quality, etc., that may or may not have something to do with how the manager performs as a manager.

So this leaves one more option:  Brining in a third party to assess and provide feedback to a manager.  A manager coach. This third party entity could review the practices of the manager, interview the manager on how the manager operates as a manager, look at artifacts such as strategy documents, performance management documents, team meeting agendas, and the like, and even attend a few team meetings to review the manager’s practices.  Interviews with employees are not necessarily required to be part of the process.

Then, in a private session, the manager coach receives specific and immediate feedback on the expected practices of what a manager does in the organization, and is given the opportunity to improve.  The manager could fill in the gaps in performance and identify opportunities to push his or her performance as a manager to higher levels.

Full disclosure, the author of the Manager by Design blog, Walter Oelwein, provides this service via his consulting company, Business Performance Consulting, LLC.

Let’s now look at how this option – a manager coach — compares to the other options:

The “risk low?” column refers to the risk of a manager recriminating against an employee.  Under the “Manager Coach” model, the feedback isn’t coming from the employee, but the coach, and the recriminations would be to the coach, if anyone.  Additional benefits are that the feedback is provided regularly, based on the expected practices of a manager (either specific to the organization or general people management practices), the feedback is provided by someone specifically trained in giving feedback, and the feedback is pertinent to the actual current job performance.

The down side?  It costs money!  Hiring someone to be a manager coach costs additional money, while the other feedback mechanisms listed above don’t cost anything.  They’re free!

What an organization needs to calculate is the what are the risks of having poor people management and benefits of having quality management. (Here’s an article discussing some of the macro costs of poor quality management.) Are your managers performing great as people and team managers?  Do you assess this?  Are they consistently meeting the performance bar for great team and people management?  Are they avoiding the mistakes that managers tend to make?  Are they employing solid practices that make for great manager?

If you are interested in learning more about Business Performance Consulting’s services as Manager Coach, please find my contact info via More details about Business Performance Consulting’s services in providing structure and feedback in improving management capability can be found at:

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


2 Responses to “One more option for providing feedback to manager: 3rd Party Assessment and Coaching”
  1. Pat says:

    You make a good case for a ‘third party coach’!

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