Actions to take: Adapt the script below for your own purposes before you transition to giving small, frequent feedback to your team.
Better-boss.com advocates for casual, frequent performance feedback using the following formula: 1) ask if you can provide feedback; 2) provide feedback using the format "when you do X, it has Y impact"; 3) finish with a question asking them to change or an affirmation that they should keep it up. Feedback is short, simple, and can be about any work behavior. All posts about feedback assume this formula and strategy.
In the second post about rolling out feedback, I promised a script for you to use when you announce this change. This post makes good on that promise.
The following is a complete script that one might use to explain the change from infrequent feedback on major accomplishments and issues to frequent feedback on the details of work. I strongly encourage you to take the two following pieces of advice.
First, do this live, ideally in a staff meeting with all of your direct reports. Hopefully you have regularly scheduled all-staff meetings already on the books. This is an ideal topic for one of those meetings. Less ideally, you should call a meeting solely to roll out feedback. That is still better than the worst option, which is to put this in an email. Live communication is best for announcing any important change.
Second, adapt this script. This is written in my voice based on how I naturally speak. It is written with certain assumptions about how my team expects me to talk. If you use this script as-is, you will sound weird to your team. Instead, take this script as a model. Even if you rewrite it sentence-for-sentence just making little changes, it will sound much more natural.
Feedback Rollout Script:
With this next agenda item, I'm going to explain a pretty significant change to how I've been managing you.
Starting three weeks from now, I am going to make a tweak to how I comment on your work. I am going to start giving you each more feedback about the work you are doing. We are all used to getting feedback on major things that happen, good or bad. We will keep having those conversations. In addition, though, I am going to start giving feedback on your everyday work, the small things. It might sound like this, "Hey Ben, when you turn in your part of a project ahead of time, a couple things happen. It helps your coworkers, because they get to see what you've done and match their work with it. It also means I get to report that we are ahead of schedule on projects, which everyone likes to hear. Keep up the good work." I am making it a personal goal to give each of you at least one piece of performance feedback every week.
You are probably wondering where this is coming from. Just like you all, I'm always looking for ways to get better at my job. I've been learning about things I can do as a manager that will make a real impact. The best management resources I've found all spend a lot of time on feedback. They talk about how the average employee barely gets any feedback about their work and doesn't really know what their boss thinks of the things they are doing. That's certainly been my experience throughout my career. You all may or may not admit it in front of me, but I bet you feel that way too.
I've learned that bosses who give a lot of small feedback are far more helpful to their teams, and their teams get a lot more work done. Rather than storing it up for the evaluation or only talking about stuff that is big enough for an evaluation, the most effective bosses give feedback on all sorts of work behaviors, the little details that make things run smoothly.
Because it is small stuff, it isn't so intimidating to get feedback. That's the idea anyway. Look, I know what it's like when the boss comments on your work--I'm an employee too, after all. Going forward, "feedback" from me is not a big deal. It isn't going to be about me judging you. My goal with this kind of feedback is to help. Most of the time, it will be me saying "Yes, that is an effective thing you did. Keep it up." When you do something well, I want you to hear about it so that you know it's worth doing. From here on out, try to think of feedback from me as advice, not as a judgment.
While we're on the subject of what feedback isn't, feedback is also not about me just saying "good job." You are all doing great work. But my goal with feedback is about telling you what is effective. I will be working to make these comments meaningful and instructional. When you get feedback from me, I will be telling you something I think you should continue doing or something I think would be more effective if you changed. I won't be patronizing anyone with platitudes. I'll be giving you information about how to do your best work.
Based on everything I've learned recently, employees benefit from having a manager who gives frequent feedback about small things. Once I thought about it, that made a lot of sense. Let me ask you this: if you are doing something that I think isn't effective, when do you want to know about it? Do you want to know right away, or do you want me to wait until I've seen you do it wrong 4 or 5 times? (engage in answers) On the flip side, if I see you doing something and think, "Yes, that's a good way to go about it," do you want to know that too? (engage again)
The idea of getting more feedback from your boss is scary for most people. I know that. Once you see it in action, I'm hoping that anxiety will fade away. So let's talk a little more about what it looks like.
When I see you doing something effective or something I'd recommend that you change, the first thing I am going to do is ask you if you'd like some feedback. This is another change from how it usually works. Like I said above, feedback from now on is advice for you, not judgment. If you're not in the right mood to take advice on your work, that's no problem. I'm not ready for advice sometimes too. To make sure I'm not getting you at a bad time, I'm going to ask, "Can I give some feedback?" Please say "no" if that's the honest answer. Another nice thing about giving feedback about small stuff: it's no big deal if we miss one or two. The opportunity will come around another time.
If you say yes, I'm going to phrase my feedback like this, "When you do X, it has Y impact." You'll always hear that structure in my feedback from now on. I know it seems a little silly to be so formulaic about it. I'm going to do it this way because I want to make absolutely sure I'm explaining why the thing you are doing is effective or might need some changes. I'm not saying "Do this. Don't do that." I'm saying, "Here's what happens when you do this." It's up to you what you do with that information.
Then, I'm either going to tell you to keep it up or ask you to work on it.
All together, here's what it sounds like:
- Hey Ben, can I give you some feedback? When you make eye contact with various audience members throughout your presentations, it keeps them engaged. Keep it up!
- Hey Ben, can I give you some feedback? When you make "the ask" very clear at the top of your email, it saves me time. Thanks for that!
- Hey Ben, can I give you some feedback? When you keep your cool with angry customers, a couple things happen. First, you stop the situation from escalating even further. Second, you make the interaction go as smoothly as it can, which means less work and frustration for everyone. I know it isn't easy. I'm impressed.
You've probably noticed that all examples were about good work. The word "feedback" doesn't just mean "bad news." In fact, I plan to only give positive feedback for the first several weeks until we all get comfortable with these interactions.
Here are a couple other details about feedback:
- No audience. I'm not trying to make an example of anyone, positive or negative. When I give feedback in this way, it is just for you, so these conversations will be just between us.
- Short. Feedback doesn't have to be a big, scary discussion. 30 seconds is all the time it will take, then you are right back to whatever you were doing.
- Casual. I've mentioned this a couple times, but it is worth repeating. These quick feedback conversations are not a big deal. They're just small pieces of advice. I don't want you staying up at night thinking about them or anything like that, okay?
After this explanation, I hope you all understand that this is a pretty different way to manage than you're used to. This is new for me too. Like any change, there is going to be a transition period where it feels a little awkward. I'll do my best, but please forgive me if I stumble through it a bit at first. That's part of the reason I won't be starting for another 3 weeks. I want you all to get used to the idea before it goes live. During next week's one-on-ones, I'll touch base and see what you all think, and I'm available any time to answer any questions that pop into your head over the next few weeks.
What questions are coming to mind now? (engage in discussion)
Note from the author: if you end up using this script as a basis for your rollout, I would love to hear about it. Send me a message in the contact form on the right or comment directly on this post.