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Feedback and Assessment

Leaders who possess a developmental bias understand and practice providing feedback and assessment. When delivered wisely, this feedback is a precious investment for a leader’s development.

Why is it that so many people when hearing that their supervisor wants to see them will immediately wonder, “What have I done wrong?” Or when formal time is scheduled for the annual review, there is dread?

The tones of such conversations are set by the posture of the supervisor with the leader. When leaders at such meetings are primarily told what they have done wrong, no matter how nicely couched in affirmations, they will naturally view these meetings as a necessary evil.  However, when leaders emerge from such meetings with a sense that their supervisor is on their side and even after developmental opportunities are discussed, there is a confidence that the way forward will be better.  These become positive and desirable encounters.

What kind of feedback has been helpful for you?  What feedback was memorable in a positive way?  What feedback have you received that was of a negative nature but was presented in a way that you could embrace and utilize for your growth?

In a June 2014 Harvard Business Review article on “The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations” research showed what happens in the brain when conversations are either positive or negative. In both cases a hormone is produced that affects our thinking and emotions.  Negative feedback results in shutting down the thinking portion of the brain and triggers protective behaviors that make one more sensitive and reactive.  Positive feedback elevates one’s ability to communicate and collaborate. The research concluded that managers and supervisors tap into positive feedback by expressing concern, speaking truthfully, encouraging creativity, and being open to difficult conversations.  Surely this is doable!

Here are some suggestions for how to give feedback when meeting with a leader:

  • Begin with an actual and recent experience to address.
  • Explain what kind of leadership was expected and what resulted.
  • Ask what went well and worthy of repeating? What did not go well and should be avoided?
  • Ask what would one do differently if the experience could be redone?
  • Overall, what can be learned about yourself and how you relate to others?
  • After allowing the leader to debrief on an experience, ask permission to share some observations.

Depending on cultural background and personality, the degree of affirmation before suggested adjustments should vary. Some people prefer to be told in a direct way and others will miss the learning when too much directness is given.

In their 2014 excellent book, Thanks for the Feedback, authors Stone and Heen provide a research-based approach for how to both give and receive feedback. If this is a needed growth area you will find much practical help. “We need evaluation to know where we stand, to set expectations, to feel reassured or secure. We need coaching to accelerate learning, to focus our time and energy where it really matters, and to keep relationships healthy and functioning. And we need appreciation if all the sweat and tears we put into our jobs and our relationships are going to feel worthwhile.” (p. 35) Feedback is an essential tool when leading with a developmental bias.

Periodic assessments or performance reviews are also an ideal time to help a leader develop. It is a great gift when a person has someone who will speak truth in love.

Some interaction on past performance is needed for concrete discussions but the purpose of reviews should be more forward looking than backward. Development is for increased contribution to an existing role as well as for a potential future role. There is never an end to life-long learning.

Jesus provided feedback and assessment for His disciples. What would you say were the top three areas He sought to develop within them so they could succeed after He was gone? Any study of the Gospels will uncover three core arenas of learning: Belief, Advance of the Gospel, and Glory of God. What we read in Acts and the Epistles tells us that the disciples developed well through the feedback and assessment they received.

Application: Who can you invite to give you feedback?




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