"His team would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity." (Source: feedback review from a large US corporation)
Feedback is crucial. I always want more feedback on how I’m doing. My CEO Josh Krichefski reminded his board recently to seek feedback frequently and act on it.
Feedback at work has evolved from a formal review of progress by your boss to the more rounded 360 as a norm where your boss, your team and your peers all have a say about how you’re doing.
You have to really listen to any feedback (which hopefully is usually more constructive than that quoted above – although clearly the feedback reviewer had got fairly desperate about getting their point across.)
Opinions differ on how frequently you should have a review. In some businesses teams score each other monthly on performance. Some keep the main review to an annual cycle and suggest quarterly KPI checks. There are clearly pros and cons to each. The first seems like it could be endless with many working hours a month taken up by the feedback process. The second only works if you have very trusted team members – there’s lots of room and time to hide inadequate performance if the annual review is the key performance measure.
Both of these feedback cultures are too slow and ponderous. They’re too formal. They’re too parent child.
Feedback should be every day, every meeting, every encounter. Instead of parent child, teacher pupil, team leader to team member, the feedback loop should be expert to expert. Continuous marginal improvements instead of weighty critiques – like a fabulously famous actor and director working with A-list actors on his movie set.
Sir Kenneth Branagh attended a charity showing at Rada of his new movie Murder on the Orient Express earlier this month and did a question and answer session. In attendance were many Rada students, one of whom asked: "I know you must be used to it by now, but how on earth do you direct yourself, and how do you approach directing such famous actors such as Dame Judi Dench and Jonny Depp?"
Branagh’s answer was interesting in two ways. First he talked about the fact that he went through a phase when he was crippled by nerves. Now instead, he doesn’t consider himself nervous, he considers himself excited. Nervous makes you doubt everything, excited makes you step up.
Secondly he said that when you sit down to do a scene directing Johnny Depp it isn’t a one-way process. Sure Branagh gives Depp notes (the actorly term for course correction) but in return and in the moment Depp critiques Branagh’s performance as well.
This is the feedback framework that we all need: a peer-to-peer note giving process in our daily working life. Here’s one thing you could do better, here’s one thing you could stop and here’s something that you got just right.
Informal continuous assessment to make sure that we all deliver a bit better today than we did yesterday, every day.
Sue Unerman is the chief transformation officer of MediaCom