runningIf you’ve followed for a while you know I enjoy running (I’m on MapMyRun, if you’d like to connect!) I’m also a bit of a nutrition nut due to a high school stint in wrestling, several years of running marathon distances and longer, and generally being a nerd. One thing that I have learned over time, and studies have backed up this observation, is that all of us consistently overestimate the calories we burn and underestimate our intake. Let’s repeat for clarity’s sake:

We consistently overestimate the calories we burn and underestimate what we consume.

It’s a part of being human to want to maximize our successes and minimize things that detract from our performance. As I thought through this idea (on a run, of course) I considered the parallel in the workplace when it comes to communication.

Managers overestimate the amount of communication provided and underestimate the amount of desired feedback.

Put simply, managers think they are communicating plenty. They think they are rockstars at communication and have it completely taken care of. At the same time their employees feel clueless and out of the loop. They are not getting sufficient information to do their jobs well and wish the manager would share more often.

Same principle: we want to maximize the activities we do (Wow! I communicated that well. I rock!) and minimize things that detract from that (Well, if the employees listened more then they would know what’s going on.)

One thing I do now for sure–in all of the thousands of employees I have met over the years, I have yet to come into contact with one that told me, “My manager communicates too much.”

When in doubt, share information. The best leaders know that sharing information is more powerful than holding onto it in the long run, even when you have to communicate with difficult team members.

What are your thoughts on manager feedback and communication? 

This just in: group feedback isn’t the best tool in your performance management toolbox…

I was running through some old emails the other day and found an example I had to share. Several years ago I was working as a high school wrestling referee. It was definitely a tough job, but I learned some good stuff from the experiences (not getting overwhelmed when someone’s screaming in your face is an amazing skill).

One of the quirks of the job was that you’d get an anonymous/random evaluation on your performance once or twice a year. I never once received any specific, personal feedback on how I was doing other than informally from my peers. However, occasionally, the reviewer would send out group feedback notes like the ones below…

Overall the officiating has been good. Your hustle and positioning has been generally good. There are some opportunities for improvement. Stalling is still a problem. We need to get more aggressive in calling stalling to eliminate that from the sport. With tournaments coming up at several places, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the restricted areas of the mat are clearly marked. Also remember that only two people are allowed in the corner and they are supposed to be seated in the chairs. Over the next three weeks, I will be looking closely at how you have responded to my comments from previous evaluation and in determining who should be recommended for the post season. We have several candidates in you Association. This is your time to convince me that you are the one who deserves to be selected.

Let’s imagine for a moment that this was a performance evaluation provided to you and your team on your collective performance. How motivated and engaged would you feel if someone sent you this group feedback in an email along with twenty of your coworkers?

Yeah, I had that same reaction.

I just wanted to share as a little reminder that despite all we know about leadership and effective talent management, there are still managers that need help doing the job of managing people. Wow.

Learning how to give critical feedback isn’t difficult, but actually doing it can be! Check out the video (and notes) below for some recent research on how to put this communication tool to use in your organization.

Video on why and how to give critical feedback

Email subscribers click here to view the video

Video notes

  • Positive feedback is valuable at the beginning of a project or movement to get traction.
  • Positive feedback has decreasing returns as the recipient becomes more proficient.
  • Learning how to give critical feedback the right way can actually help people learn from their mistakes and do better work.
  • Economics is a really cool topic, even if it takes a handful of nerds to decipher the data. :-)

Most of us know how to give critical feedback, but something inside still holds us back. As the smart guys at Freakonomics tell us, negative or critical feedback can be a positive thing!

Have you seen this scenario play out in your organization? How do you identify the tipping point between delivering positive or critical feedback? 

A performance discussion for those who manage others

I have been thinking a lot about performance management lately-namely, how can managers get it done faster, better, and more effectively? I run into complaints about all areas of performance feedback: how to do it, what to say, how to have time for it, etc.

I get them so often that I’ve put together a quick discussion you can have with your managers to help them do it well. The best part? There is no “I don’t have time for this” excuse, because the lesson takes less than a minute to deliver. Here we go:

30 Second Public Service Message for Managers

Performance feedback is critically important for your people to do their jobs well. It needs to be all these:

  • On time
  • Honest
  • Accurate

Keep The Golden Rule in mind. Address their performance (good or bad) like you would want your own to be addressed.

Bonus tip: if you think there may be a surprise for the employee, call me.

And that, my friends, is the 30 second lesson on performance!

Want more? Check out the free employee performance management guide!

I heard a new term to describe poor job feedback recently at the SHRM 2012 Conference, and I just had to share it here.

gunnysack feedback  [guhn-ee-sak feed-bak] noun
the act of saving all of an employee’s feedback over time and delivering it all at one time during an annual performance review; see also terrible management practices and how to increase employee turnover

how to give feedback at workThis is a really bad idea for several reasons.

  • First, you are not supplying the person with positive encouragement when they accomplish something noteworthy. How will they know what they are doing right?
  • Second, you are not correcting improper behaviors right away. Do you seriously think the employee really wants to do the wrong thing for an extended period of time before you get up the nerve to tell them?

In short, it violates the biggest rule with regard to comments for performance reviews: treat the other person like you want to be treated. Stuck and not sure how to proceed? Here’s a crazy idea–ask them what they want! Let’s add gunnysack job feedback to the list of failed management ideas (like using Twitter for reviews).

Anyone witnessed a manager clinging to the belief that this type of performance management is a good one?

Yesterday, Jose Berrios of SHRM spent some time talking about diversity, and he mentioned using a Twitter-like tool to let managers give employee feedback in short, 140-character snippets. Many of the audience members agreed that it was a good idea, but I was quick to point out that it isn’t really that easy. My alternative solution:

In response to my comment, someone else came back with a (poor) excuse for why my idea wouldn’t work:

I can’t help but laugh. HR pros need to be forcing managers to manage well, not giving them a free pass to be poor communicators. If they are not talking with their employees, that’s not going to change by offering to let them talk to their employees with a software program in snippets too small to give real, useful feedback.

Let’s fix the problem with managers who don’t take the time to talk with their people. Then we can discuss software tools that help to supplement the feedback process with more frequent, informal pieces here and there. It’s not an either/or answer–both can (and should) be used effectively.