Feedback, Informal and Formal

Everything about this article on HBR from Amy Gallo makes sense to me and feels really right. 

Here are the high points, but read the whole article:

Principles to Remember


  • Always say thank you and explain how you’ll respond to the feedback you’ve heard
  • Turn to a few people you trust who can tell you what others really think about your performance and ideas
  • If you think people won’t open up, start by gathering feedback anonymously to show them you’re receptive


  • Wait for review time to ask for input
  • Assume you are going to get 100% honest feedback, especially at first
  • Rely on one source for feedback — triangulate between several points of data

Feedback is crucial. Leaders who don’t want it or can’t handle it probably won’t lead for long. Feedback is the same as program evaluation, only for an internal resource. Organizations that don’t have formal mechanisms for feedback suffer as a result of it, but this article also suggests that informal and constant requests for feedback will engender a “culture of feedback” that could be even more productive.

I wouldn’t be able to deal with the red cards during a meeting approach, but the spirit of this exercise, the immediate praise for good behavior and a small punishment for the bad, it’s almost Pavlovian.

Feedback discussions always remind of The Office (the Suggestion Box episode, in which Michael tries to create a mechanism for anonymous feedback in less than 30 minutes using a 5 year old suggestions box: “What are we doing about Y2K?” Priceless) but in truth it is fundamental. I had a really nice manager at an old job who really understood the value of praise, even in the smallest doses. Honest criticism, when delivered in a thoughtful and constructive way, is  always a good thing. And fostering a dialogue between staff at different levels and removing the power dynamics that make the feedback process scary for some employees is a fabulous step towards a truly open, collaborative workplace culture.

The feedback culture in an organization says a lot about a great manager, but also about a great leader.


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