The Manager by Designsm blog writes frequently about the importance of managers having the ability to give quality performance feedback. I’ve written about the need to use behavior-based language, and making sure the performance feedback is given in the appropriate timeliness and specificity.
But is giving feedback really necessary?
Leslie Allan has a great article on the Business Performance blog that highlights the importance of quality manager feedback on employee engagement. She cites a Gallup survey conducted in 2009 that identifies how different “feedback styles” can have a huge impact in employee engagement.
The article highlights that a manager who does not provide any feedback will have almost no employee engagement. Then those who do provide feedback have much more employee engagement, with those managers who focus on strengths getting even more engagement — they’re 30 times more likely to manage engaged workers than no feedback. Read more
The Manager by Designsm blog has documented many issues that annual performance reviews bring to the manager/employee relationship. I’ve written about how they are “toxic”, cause angst, and perpetuate myths both about employee capability and what acceptable management practices are.
But I’m not totally against annual performance reviews. Sure, I don’t think that they are effective at actually evaluating performance of the people they are evaluating, but I do think that they are extremely effective at revealing the practices of the managers conducting the reviews. They are a treasure of information that provides a window into how the manager relates to her employees, how she assesses performance, and the degree of effort taken to help the employees improve.
So I say keep the performance reviews, because this is the only infrastructure – however flimsy (I can’t elevate it to the level of “design”) — that many organizations have that actually require managers to perform management-related tasks, such as setting expectations and goals, assessing and discussing performance of the employees, and actually committing this to a document that demonstrates that this task has been performed.
In my previous articles, I took a look at how high-profile jobs, such as athletes and movie directors, get lots of performance feedback from lots of sources. Then I looked at entry level jobs, and showed how these roles receive tons of performance feedback as well (at least this is the case in high performing organizations). These highly divergent jobs receive tons of performance feedback. Not only do these highly divergent jobs receive a lot of feedback, the quality of the feedback tends to be high, in that the performance feedback is specific and immediate, and allows the person to adjust quickly what they are doing to get better.
OK, so now let’s look at managers. The manager’s job is to manage, hence the name “manager.” So surely managers get lots of feedback, right? No.
In previous articles, I’ve discussed general sources of feedback that managers receive and how incomplete they are. Sources such as 360 degree feedback programs, employee surveys, attrition rates, they tend to be faulty as sources of performance feedback. To underscore this point, let’s compare where managers receive feedback on their job as managers to both high-profile public roles (athletes and movie directors) and entry-level positions (customer service representatives and factory workers).
For the athletes and the movie directors, there is a surplus of performance feedback, some of it sought out, and some of it unsolicited. In fact, entire third party industries have been created to develop and publish statistics and analysis of the statistics for the high profile jobs, and athletes and movie directors have a hard time avoiding this kind of information.
The Manager by Designsm blog seeks to start a new field, “Management Design,” that takes seriously how to create great managers. In order to be great at anything, you have to receive a lot of useful performance feedback. It has to be timely and specific. It has to be actionable. It has to be ongoing. In my previous article, I looked at high-profile careers – athletes and movie directors – and identified the way they receive performance feedback.
Now let’s look at some low-profile careers and how they receive performance feedback:
Customer Service Representative:
In quality customer service organizations (they do exist—think of the ones you have had a good experience with, not the ones you dread talking to), the Customer Service Representative receives a lot of performance feedback. Here are some sample places:
–From the customer they just talked to (“Thank you for your help!” or “That won’t work for me” or “I want to talk to your manager and complain.”)
–From self (“I won’t say that again!”)
–From peers in the adjacent cubicle who overhear good or bad service (they don’t want to talk to the person calling back)
–From their manager who listens to calls and provides feedback afterward
–From a quality team that listens to calls and provides feedback afterward
–From daily and monthly statistics surrounding call time, quality scores, and other metrics
–From aggregate customer service organization statistics (customer satisfaction, average call time) and the individual comparison to the aggregate scores
–From awards, both individual and team
Note: The lower quality customer service organizations do not necessarily have these robust structures, which may explain the lower quality and frustration many people often have with customer service.
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 my previous article, I explored the channels that are most likely to provide specific and immediate feedback to managers on how they manage. The most common channels (like relying on your boss’s boss) are not reliably effective, while the channel with the highest likelihood of success is to receive feedback directly from employees. So why don’t managers get feedback from their employees?
Many managers are not good at being a manager, and the ones who suffer most directly from poor management practices are the employees. Similarly, employees are also the ones who are most likely to observe the behaviors of the boss, and have the ability to identify different ways for the boss to behave that would help the team perform better (i.e., “Instead of yelling, I would like it if you would speak to me in a calm voice.”) Read more
The Manager by Designsm blog seeks opportunities to design how managers improve in people and team management. A key opportunity is to seek ways on how managers receive feedback in managing.
In my previous blog post, I looked at nine ways employees can give feedback to their manager. However, they all lacked as effective channels for an employee to give feedback, as they were either indirect, high risk, non-specific, have a time-lag, or the feedback provider isn’t necessarily skilled in providing performance feedback. That’s a lot of hurdles!
In today’s post, I’ll provide an examination for where there is the most hope, and what can be done to increase the chances that employees can give useful performance feedback to their managers.
In looking at the nine ways managers get feedback, all have their flaws. Good performance feedback needs to be directly given, be specific and immediate, provided by someone who is able to give performance feedback using behavior-based language, and in the case of the employee giving feedback to the manager, the risk for recrimination needs to be either designed-out or mitigated.
Here’s a grid showing how the various channels stack up: Read more
The Manager by Designsm blog advocates for a new field called “Management Design”, in which managers engage in solid people and team management practices by design, rather than by accident. An example the poor management design experienced today is that managers typically do not have very good channels for receiving performance feedback on their management skills.
I’ve recently explored how managers typically get feedback on their management skills:
In none of these channels do managers receive feedback that is specific and immediate on their management actions, and as discussed in this blog, the more specific and immediate the feedback, the more artful the feedback is. The more artful the feedback, the better the performance. So the corollary is, the less artful the feedback, the worst the performance. And managers have a spotty track record of performance.
This is the latest in a series of posts that identify where managers get feedback on being a manager. I’ve explored quitting employees, attrition rates and management surveys, and I’ve come to the conclusion that none of these give specific and immediate feedback to the managers on how they manage. OK, so how about the manager’s manager? That surely is a place where managers get feedback on how they are doing, right? After all, this blog discusses — nay obsesses over — how it is a manager’s role to provide feedback to their employees on how they are doing in their job. It logically follows that a manager who manages a manager should give feedback on how well their employee is doing as a manager.
Well, let’s see how likely this is to occur
1. Managers tend to reinforce the behaviors that got them promoted
This is the latest in a series of blog posts exploring how managers currently obtain feedback on their performance as people managers. Employees would seem to have a lot of opinions and ideas for managers in this area. The questions is – how do employees give feedback to a manager? Previously, I explored the most common ways for managers to get feedback from their employees: “voting with your feet” and “tracking attrition rates.” I conclude that these don’t constitute performance feedback, because they are vague and delayed, rather than specific and immediate.
OK, so how about management surveys and 360 degree feedback?
Let’s take a look on how well these provide feedback to a manager.
Management Surveys: This is when an organization sends a survey to a manager’s employees (both direct reports and extended team) to rate the manager on a scale (say, 1 to 5) in relation to different areas a manager should have an impact. You may find survey items such as:
“My manager creates an atmosphere of trust”
“My manager listens to my ideas”
“My manager communicates the organization strategy well”