Performance vs Development Feedback

Nov 14, 2021

Tell me one piece of feedback you’ve received from a manager that wasn’t performance related? 

For example; time management, quality of work, communication skills, and my favorite – “You are not showing initiative”. The latter I can go full SNL on, but I won’t.

I brought this topic into the space because it’s important for managers and anyone having the responsibility of managing and leading others to understand the importance of “THE WHOLE PERSON AT WORK”.

An executive shared with me that they are having a hard time trying to understand why Daenerys (for the sake of anonymity) doesn’t show initiative without being prompted to. This was such a loaded statement and as a coach, I am only interested in their perspective and the importance of this to them. I’m not going to divulge the arc of coaching here, but what I am going to do is mention these questions that provided an insightful realization for the client.

I asked the following questions: (Not stacked questions)

1. What kind of feedback do you give Daenerys? (Performance feedback)

2. How often do you give feedback? …(Only when she does something wrong)

3. What action steps are discussed after feedback? …(None)

4. How do you model the feedback? I.E. Do you ask for feedback in return?… (No, because at my level I don’t see the relevance and besides we don’t have time)

5. How do you approach feedback? (None…I just say you didn’t do this and that, etc.)

This C-suite individual was so focused on the performance that he missed that Daenerys has shifted her approach with work, that she was disconnected and checked out, and performance was more important than development and it impacted her relationships with her clients.

The approach shifted in the direction of exploring and building a connection with Daenerys (2 session later):

1. What’s important to Daenerys?…(and not Kings Landing…lol)…. (More professional development, recognition, and time)

2. Feedback to be given as often a possible with the successes as well with specific detail as to the what, the when, the why, and the impact

3. Follow-ups were done via email to confirm action steps were completed.

4. In 30 mins feedback was given both ways: what worked well, what can be improved, how can it be improved, and the importance of doing it differently (if needed), and lastly where does it fit into the scope of things?

Most of the time, managers think feedback is about performance but I can guarantee you it’s about the “person” first. That same person woke up this morning, comes to work with all their “stuff- good and bad” and is expected to smile and shove it down. Yes, you can shove it down, but it will permeate in other ways. As a manager you have the privilege to manage and be in charge of someone’s professional career and development. Be mindful of wanting to manage from a place of directive vs empathy and understanding.

How changing your approach to 1:1s with these questions will set you up for success:

1. How did I best support you this week/weeks?

2. What need of yours have I not met? (This is important because we are speaking about psychological needs…probe and create a trusting space)

3. How can I set you up for success? (People know what they need to have a sense of belonging in their role and at a company)

4. What are you most proud of that went well? (This will give insight into what motivates them…probe and ask what about that was important to you achieving 

5. Where do you think you’ve dropped the ball? (This is important to let them identify, maybe they will surprise you as it might just be in alignment with what you’ve also observed) …See how I left this one till the end? 

Clearly this is like a muscle and needs exercise, right? I’ve coached so many managers/leaders, and the fundamentals still escape them. Let’s have a chat with insight if you want to give effective feedback and truly understand why psychological safety is important for both you and the people you manage.


Your Chief Curious Coach