Get introduced to one of the most critical aspects of performance management: feedback.

As she was finishing up her team’s standup, Greeshma called for a quick moment to address the group. “I wanted to let you all know that Michael’s feature demo in front of the product team yesterday went fabulously; they’re quite impressed with the work the team has done, and they had a number of great things to say about your presentation, Michael.” She grinned to herself as she caught a bit of good-natured ribbing aimed Michael’s way as the group walked out of the room.

When she got back to her desk, Greeshma fired up her laptop and put together an email to Ivan, a new member of her team. “Ivan, I wanted to let you know that I noticed the story you’re working on is a few days past due; can you swing by my desk at some point today or tomorrow and discuss with me what’s going on? Thanks.” Next, she checked with the travel team on Erin’s conference trip—Erin was excited to be heading to the developer conference in Kansas City as an “above-and-beyond” reward for her work on the Astro project. Fortunately, it was all booked and tickets were in Erin’s inbox. Hurrying off to her next meeting, she caught Isabella in the hallway. “Izzy, we still on for our 1:1 this afternoon? We still need to do our quarterly review—you’re the last one on my list for the team.” At Izzy’s nod, Greeshma quick-timed it to her manager’s office.

Ishumi waved her in as Greeshma arrived. “Come on in, G. I wanted to go over how the team’s been doing on the Astro project.” Greeshma smiled and pulled out her notebook.

Of all the elements that are most critical to an effective performance management program, feedback rates right near, or at, the top. Just as every agile methodology stresses feedback in almost all of its ceremonies (unit tests, standups, weekly releases, retrospectives, and so on), getting feedback to your directs is crucial. Without feedback, they can’t know what to do keep doing, what to stop doing, and what new things to try doing. In fact, it may be fair to say that at least a quarter, if not half, of a manager’s time is spent offering up that feedback in one form or another.

However, feedback is more than just telling your directs when they’ve screwed up; history has made it clear that managers who focus exclusively on “corrective action” as their feedback mechanism do not keep teams around them for long. Nor is the opposite end of the spectrum—only offering up praise—going to yield the kind of results you’d like. Knowing when and how to give feedback—and what kind of feedback to give—is crucial to a successful and productive team.

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