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You’re Giving Bad Feedback: Here’s One Question That Can Change Everything

Source | | Justin Follin

It’s the end of the year. You have performance review meetings scheduled with all seven of your direct reports. It’s good news: They are all getting their bonuses this year. For each of them, you have prepared a bulleted list of focus areas for the next year, usually the areas where they need to improve. Everyone gets their bonus and leaves knowing how they need to get better. Win-win, right?

Maybe not if you really want your employees to improve.

Before working with a company’s management team on their leadership development process, we conduct a company-wide cultural survey. Consistently, some of the lowest scores are reported on the question asking if employees receive “meaningful feedback on a regular basis.” This data is then anecdotally supported when I start coaching individuals who report that they have little to no idea how they are doing in the eyes of their manager.

They do receive plenty of feedback, though — at the end of the year. That’s 12 months of waiting. I won’t write specifically about the need to reconsider the practice of performance reviews entirely, but here is an interesting argument that the practice might need to be retired.

In 2018, Morten T. Hansen (Jim Collins’ co-writer of Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All) published Great At Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More with conclusions made from five years of research across 5,000 managers and employees. In it, he suggests that mastery of a field is not simply the result of 10,000 hours of practice as famously posited by Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success.

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