Tips for how a manager can improve direct peer feedback

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Peer feedback can be a tricky thing.  When it is given indirectly, such as via 360 feedback surveys, it potentially makes a mess that is hard to clean up.  But what about when peer feedback is directly given?  There are pros and cons for peer feedback directly given, and perhaps the biggest argument in favor of direct peer feedback is that it multiplies the amount of performance feedback an employee receives.

Use these tips to encourage your team to maximize the pros and minimize the cons:

1.  Get the team, in addition to the manager, good at giving feedback

The Manager by Design blog knows how badly given feedback can ruin so many things about the work environment.  And there is an epidemic of badly-given feedback out there, and for this reason I have some hesitation to recommend in this post that the lines of feedback be increased, since it could be increased badly given feedback.

However, performance feedback is such an important performance driver that this must be overcome!  There are ways to improve how you give feedback and can identify what good feedback looks like.  This blog provides a number of tips on how to improve the feedback, from making it specific and immediate to using behavior-based language, to seeking direct observation and feedback opportunities.   There are many examples of great training opportunities to learn how to give performance feedback.  In the Seattle area, I recommend Responsive Management Systems, which provides services that will improve how you prepare to give feedback and give feedback that gets the results you want.  Of particular interest related to this topic is their “Responsive Colleague” program.1

2.  Include the concept of peer feedback as part of your team expectations

Providing expectations is a key deliverable of a managers’ job.  So is providing performance feedback.  So how about providing the expectation that team members provide performance feedback to one another?  A manager, in forming the team, can establish that providing feedback to one another is an expected practice, and the purpose is to improve how the team performs and achieves its goals.  With this expectation set, you set the stage for feedback to be given through multiple channels, rather than the single channel of a manager.


3. Incorporate into the workflow

Many aspects of workflow require that peers give feedback to one another.  It happens all the time.  In the software development industry, this is known as “code reviews,” where a peer looks at the other person’s code for errors and makes suggestions for improvement.  This practice has been known to improve the quality of software significantly, and the principle applies elsewhere.  For just about any document or presentation, people ask for feedback on their work.  Many times this “request for feedback” is initiated by the worker, not the manager, with the worker knowing that getting feedback is an important step for making sure the work is of a quality necessary to meet the goals.  So peer feedback does happen out there!

A manager and team members can identify common areas in workflows where peer feedback is important and desirable.  Then they can essentially encourage it as part of the team workflow.  When incorporated as part of the normal course of work, the feedback tends to be focused on the quality of the work and the improvement of the work.  In other words, it tends to be more specific and more immediate, usually is focused on behaviors (i.e., uses behavior-based language), and not generalizations and personalities.

In my next article, I’ll provide three more tips for what a manager can do to improve direct peer feedback

1 Manager by Designsm is not financially affiliated with Responsive Management Systems. We believe it is a cool program, as it is designed to improve how managers and teams operate, with an excellent focus on feedback.

Related articles:

When to provide performance feedback using direct observation: Practice sessions

When to provide performance feedback using direct observation: On the job

Areas of focus in providing performance feedback based on direct observation: Tangible artifacts

Why peer feedback from surveys doesn’t qualify as feedback

Examples of how peer feedback from surveys is misused by managers

How to use peer feedback from surveys for good (it’s not easy) Part 1

How to use peer feedback from surveys for good (it’s not easy) – Part 2

Some pros and cons of peer feedback directly given by peers



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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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