How to Organize Your Feedback

If you lead a team, formally or informally, perhaps the most critical part of your job is giving feedback. Not only do you need to encourage people who are doing well, but you also need to offer course corrections when people lose their way.  The first exercise makes everyone happy, but the second is more difficult to navigate.

The clearest way I've found to simplify the process and give someone constructive feedback is to look at input through the lens of a pie chart.  Every action that falls outside of the performance expectation falls somewhere on this chart.  The key to figuring out the next steps is to decide where on the pie chart the performance challenge lands.


The easiest spot on the chart is in the orange, or "Experience" section.  If someone's performance falls short and it's because they lack experience,   make sure the next step the person takes is with training.  In this case, their growth is a function of how much development they've had and how long they've been on the job.  Of course, this assumes that they have the capacity to develop the core competencies which, admittedly,  is a big assumption.  Still, in the scope of an annual review and development plan, it's the most straightforward issue to address.

If experience is lacking - train.

The green area is also relatively simple to develop a plan for because it deals with intent.  If you have someone on your team who has not bought into the mission of the organization; who isn't interested in working for a team; who undermines the ability of the group to succeed, then you have a problem with the person's heart.  In short,  you have an employee who has no intention of doing anything that doesn't  serve his or her personal interests.  This person needs to be moved off of the team and out the door as quickly as due process allows.

If the intent is wrong - dismiss.

The tricky area is the blue area that deals with style.  If someone has strong experience; if they mean well, but they have a style that interferes their success, then you have to grapple with a long process.    You can usually move away from dismissing them and more training won't generally help.  Instead, what they need is coaching.  They need feedback. They need to be made aware of their blind spots.  They need to discover their strengths.  They need time and development.  They need awareness of how their style interferes with their success.  Expect this to take a long time and to involve lots of challenging conversations.

If the style isn't a fit - coach.

This is a foundational approach to dealing with shortfalls, but that doesn't mean it's easy.  Leadership never is...