Management feedback is overrated

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 03

Here’s the quote that drives me crazy: “Unless you get feedback from a boss, you won’t know how you are doing.”

While in the context of the article it is true, my belief is that there are much better ways to know how you are doing than relying on the opinion of your manager. Let’s take a look at them:

Are your SMART Goals set up correctly?

The starting place for getting the opinion of your work right is having goals for your work. Whether they are formal goals or based on your job description (holy cow!), the goals limit what you should work on to achieve success in your job. If the goals are not right, any old thing will suffice for your work whether relevant to your work or not. This gives you the opportunity to work on whatever the whim of the day is — and be evaluated on how well you did with the latest whim.

Your measurements are the most critical

Outside of relevancy, the most critical component of your goals is how they are measured. They need measuring using good analytics, especially if they are from corporate reporting systems. The key is they need to measure your work. Not the departments work, not your coworkers, not your team, but your work.

This, by the way is not as easy as it sounds. Much of corporate reporting is to the manager level, not the person doing the work. So spend some quality time working through how your work–and no one else’s work–can be measured.

If you can’t independently determine how well your work is going, you will always enable someone else to determine your success.

Measurements help you get better feedback

Pundits will tell you that you need to get feedback from your manager. Management pundits will tell you to give feedback to your team. But what, exactly, is feedback? Do you drop into your manager’s office, sit down and casually ask, “So how am I doing on the job?” That doesn’t work out real well, does it?

But walking into your managers office and saying, “We have a problem reaching our business goal. I’m looking at these measurements and we’re not getting there as fast as we thought. I was looking for some help in figuring out what we can do better.”

Now you are not asking for feedback. Instead, you are asking for help solving a business problem. The one where both of you agreed was a goal and now there is something that needs work to reach that goal. Because the measurements gave you feedback and it wasn’t what you were expecting.

This is much better feedback because it is about your work but not about your performance. It is now about how to solve a business problem and one that both of you should be able to discuss easily and with good reasons for doing so.

Setting goals and measurements is black belt job skills

If you don’t work with your manager to set up goals and measurements that show how you are performing against your goals, you abdicate any control or influence over how you are rated in your reviews. By being on point with your goals and measurements, you are always working on the right stuff and you have a feedback mechanism where you can determine your success. Plus, when you are not seeing your success, you have a perfect reason to discuss the measurements and how to fix the business problem with your manager.

How do you measure your work performance?

  • Yes, it is interactions between humans, so it is social. I wouldn't go to far with defining exactly how the communication should happen but instead look at how to structure the communication as everyone is different with different needs.

  • fmdalton says:

    Interesting post. I would like to add that the communication of your business outcomes to your boss should not occur too frequently; ask how often s/he wants to be briefed. Next, your briefing should not be a narrative, whether written or verbal; instead, bullet your items. Finally, don’t use the word “I”; instead, start off your outcome statements with powerful verbs.
    – Fracie Dalton

  • John says:

    Interesting! Its all about the goals we have. Situations and Boss become irrelevant. Kind of reminds me of this video.

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