How to improve management design: Look at examples of high-profile careers that receive a lot of performance feedback

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The Manager by Designsm blog discusses performance feedback a lot.  That’s because it is an art that is practiced either in a limited manner, or poorly.  At the same time, performance feedback is a significant driver to improved performance of people on your team, perhaps the most significant driver.  If you imagine the alternative – no performance feedback – you will have a situation where whatever level of performance you are at will either stay the same or get worse.  Similarly, the professions that seem to be the most visible and most public seem to get the most performance feedback.  Some of it is requested, and some of it is unsolicited, but in all cases, if the profession is important enough, the performance feedback comes in frequently, specifically, and immediately.

Let’s take a look at some example professions that receive performance feedback, and how that feedback is delivered:

Professional athletes: Professional athletes get feedback in the following ways:

–Coaching during practice and games

–Sportswriters during practice and after games

–The public during games and after games

–The scoreboard


–Analysis of statistics

–Comparisons to other athletes’ statistics

–Playing time

There is a lot of investment by team management in providing feedback to these athletes on what they do and how they perform, and there is a lot of unrequested feedback from fans and sportswriters.


As discussed in the blog, the more specific and more immediate, the better the performance feedback.  The more time-delayed and more general, the less useful the feedback.


Film Directors: Film directors get feedback in the following ways:

During production:

–From self (watching the “dailies”)

–From a trusted peer

–From the movie studio

–From the crew and actors

–From the press

Post production:

–From fans

–From critics

–From box-office receipts

–From awards

–Getting the next film (and the kind of film the director wants to direct)

If you look at the performance feedback scenario for movie directors, during filming they get feedback during production, and during this time they can change and improve the production that they are working on.

After the production has been completed, they still get plenty of feedback, but they can’t do anything about that production, and can apply the feedback on the next production, which might be a long time coming, or never, if the feedback was really bad!

What is interesting is to note who a filmmaker would actually listen to when it comes to performance feedback.  In filmmaking, directors examine their own work constantly, and during production.  They review their own work in the form of “dailies” that show the results of the previous day’s output, and make constant adjustments.  They also have immediate playback technology so they can review a particular to allow them to re-do the shot.

Now, I bring up athletes and filmmakers to make the following points:

  1. High profile careers get lots of performance feedback, some of it useful and actionable, and some of it they need to ignore entirely.
  2. When the stakes are high, people seek out the best sources of performance feedback and build it in to their ongoing work.
  3. The available feedback that these high-profile roles listen to the most is the most specific and immediate feedback.  This allows them to alter their performance right away.

So let’s translate this to the manager position. I’ve examined in a series of articles where managers get feedback on how they manage. The sources are numerous, but unlike athletes and film directors, the quality of performance feedback is generally poor or weak in signal, in that the feedback managers receive as managers is non-specific, and time-delayed.

Quality management design demands an improvement in this area.  When we observe high-profile careers from a “where do they get performance feedback?” lens, we see lots of high-quality performance feedback.  But managers?  Hardly any at all.  So the chances are lower that we’ll have high-performance managers.

In my next post, I’ll go in the other direction:  Low profile careers that that receive lots of performance feedback.

Related articles:

Can organizations use attrition rates to improve manager performance? It’s tough to do

Using surveys to provide feedback to a manager: How effective is this?

Managers giving managers feedback on managing: How well is this done?

How do employees give feedback to their manager?

How to give feedback to your manager: Some possible openings

How about managers ask for feedback from their employees?

How to ask for feedback from your employees on your management skills (part 1)

How to ask for feedback from your employees on your management skills (part 2)

How to ask for feedback from your employees on your management skills (part 3)

Specific phrases and examples for how to ask for feedback from your employees

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

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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 .


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