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02.08 – Receiving and Seeking Developmental Feedback

02.08 - Receiving and Seeking Developmental Feedback
For me, and the people that work for me know it, and I think the average tenure of my direct reports is probably 15 to 16 years, so I hope I’m getting it right. But to me, a performance evaluation is just the restatement of feedback you’ve received all year long. A performance feedback should, a conversation once or twice a year should not be when you learn if you’re doing something well or not. I give people real feedback all the time, good and bad. And so, you have to be a little bit thick-skinned for that, cuz you know you’re always gonna get a real reaction.
On the other hand, if you come out of a business situation, or a meeting, or a presentation and it was great. You wanna feel great about it. And, as a manager, if you feel like we could have done something better, if I tell you about that in three months it’s not gonna mean anything. If we kinda hit the nail on the head right there, it really changes behavior. And so, to me I’m definitely personally in the camp of do away with all the formal mechanisms.
Now some firms have actually, and particularly in the technology sector, they’ve gone to these feedback mechanisms, where you can come out of a meeting, and you can request three or four people that were in the meeting to give you that feedback, and we are frankly gonna develop an app similar to that. And I think that that will be fantastic for people because it won’t be that their manager’s getting this feedback on them. It will be for pure self development. The challenge in our culture is that everyone wants to do really well. Not unlike the Michigan culture a little bit.
And so they wanna hear they did good, but then they really wanna talk about what it is they didn’t do, so well. So interestingly, I’ll tell you, share with you a story, we wanted to do something different for our operating committee that would be more directed and pointed at giving people really meaningful feedback. And so, we went out and we said to the operating committee. You need to submit five adjectives about each of your colleagues on the operating committee. And then tell us one thing you think they do great, and one thing you’d like them to change. And so all of a sudden we had 70, 80 adjectives on each person. And it was really, really powerful.
And, in one word, when you ask somebody to describe someone’s behavior, there’s not a lot of movement for interpretation, and so, James, as our CEO, he sat down with everyone individually, and he talk to them about it. I remember getting mine, and they were lot’s of great words. And someone used the word passive. And I became obsessed with it. Because anyone that knows would not describe me as passive. And I thought how could anybody think I was passive? And he just looked at me and he said, you’re doing what everybody else just did. I just read your 79 great words, and there’s one word that you can’t connect with.
And that, to me, that’s really the thing in all cultures, right? Like, how do you give people feedback, that is really coming from a place that’s meant to make people better? Versus feedback that is gotcha or feedback that is misunderstood. I’ll share another story with you. I had an employee come see me. And he came to my office and he sat down. And he said, I need to talk to you. I have a problem. And I said okay. Am I the head of HR, or you want me to be your mentor? And I always say that to the people that work for me all the time.
Tell me when you’re walking in my office if you’re coming to me as your boss, or your coming to me to somebody you wanna vent? Cuz if you’re coming to me as your boss, initially my inclination’s gonna be I have to help you. If you want me to listen and give you advice but not get involved, that’s a different thing. So he said, I’m coming to you as a mentor. He said, my boss gave me feedback. She said I’m failing. So, okay, I know who your boss is. What are you doing wrong? He said, I have no idea. I said, well, you do you mean you don’t know? Did you not have that conversation, did she not tell you?
He said, I don’t know. I said, he goes, no, no, she didn’t tell me. I go, okay, I know her, there’s not a question of the doubt that she didn’t tell you very specifically. But let me ask you a question, if she didn’t tell you, was it your responsibility to ask her? And he just kind of looked at me. Now he quit a month later, and I think that was a good outcome. He wasn’t gonna survive in our culture, but I think as people think about performance feedback, one of the things you have to contemplate and have your employees decide is whose responsibility is it?
And I would just suggest and put out there, that as great corporate leaders it’s our responsibility, but on the flip side is highly talented type A individuals, you’ve gotta take it on yourself as well to really wanna understand how you’re performing. And not in a needy way. Right, we’ve got a lot of people particularly, that are coming out of school today, who’ve never failed. Every kid gets a trophy, every parent tells them their great at something, most schools have curves. So if they’re smart enough they figure out how to get to the right side of the curve.
And you get to a place like Morgan Stanley, not dissimilar than Michigan in that regard, and everybody’s really smart, and so really taking that personal interest in like, how can I be better?
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