Updated: Aug 23
TL;DR: Feedback drives engagement, but we keep failing at it. Here's how we get better.
Equip any manager with better questions for 1x1s & reviews (John Doerr, Measure What Matters Resources)
Embrace and hold space for healthy conflict (Liane Davey, Knowledge at Wharton)
In popular discourse, feedback is a 'nice to have'. A great 'soft skill' that amazing leaders do naturally! Something to try our best on - when we find the time.
I've personally experienced how a lack of meaningful manager feedback hindered my performance and career development.
This was compounded by a rigid annual review process. After Year 1 completed, a new manager changed our performance measurement. Following instructions from my previous manager, I had optimized for the wrong KPIs. This affected my career for the following two years.
During Year 2, I invested dozens of hours building the 5 Pillars for a new role in a fast-growing department. Those interviews failed. After some head-scratching and back channel feedback, I learned I was still technically paying off performance debt from the previous year.
That was some meaningful feedback I needed to have before setting my course and priorities in Year 2.
I wasted six months and nearly burned everyone who believed in me on three interview cycles with one possible administrative outcome: failure. Given the lumbering annual feedback cycle, I pivoted to focus the rest of Year 2 on 'rehabilitation' in role.
In Year 3 I finally transferred to a role better aligned with my skills and superpowers. It proved an immediate fit. I quickly grew into a top performer on the team.
Three years of my career were shaped by one change in management and goals.
Survey data reflects broad ambivalence about feedback in the workplace:
Gallup has found that only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
That's why I paid attention when Gallup published the data below.
Feedback and Engagement
Gallup observed a linear correlation between frequency of meaningful feedback and employee engagement.
Leaders have a vested interest here. Engagement links to “many organizational outcomes, including profitability, productivity, customer service, retention, safety and overall wellbeing” (Gallup, 2022).
The effect increased for hybrid/remote roles:
Driving this in the right direction should be a slam dunk. So where do managers fall flat?
3 Common Failures
Here are three places we fail on frequency:
Failure #1: Pushing 1x1s
As managers pursue their own development, 1x1s may be viewed as a 'time suck' that jam the calendar. They obstruct the manager's facetime with senior stakeholders, and delay focus work into evenings and weekends.
If 1x1s aren't creating value for both parties, they will be pushed or canceled.