Dreading that 1-to-1 with your boss? Don’t.
Most people avoid frank conversations with their manager unless absolutely necessary, often shelving feedback for a performance review. Not Daniel Morgan. Alchemy Contruct’s General Manager not only welcomes developmental feedback but attributes it to many of his career successes. We spoke to him about how gaining clarity around your weaker skill sets can improve your prospects effectively – and quickly.
I have been told you fly the flag for developmental feedback, when did you first learn to leave your ego at the door and ask for more clarity around your weak points?
As a child, I was pretty competitive (not in a bad way) but I was always wanting to be the best at something; whether it was basketball, swimming, football. My dad was involved in coaching so I was seeking feedback from him, my coaches, my friends … feedback is always a challenge but through those experiences, I got an understanding that ‘good’ feedback is there to help you.
Professionally, I spent 20 years working at one company before joining Alchemy working across multiple roles. I would continually ask for catch-ups with my manager to get regular feedback. I wouldn’t wait for a six-month review because I wanted to learn about my role and I wanted to be the best I could be. I didn’t necessarily want to know what I was doing well (I had hints), I wanted to know what I was not doing well, not focusing on and how I could do things better.
What tips would you give that would encourage people to ask for developmental feedback more often?
1. Developmental information is a healthy way to grow working relationships.
I think regular communication with the people you’re working with ensures what you’re focusing on is the priority; because if you don’t communicate, you don’t regularly catch up or have a plan, you’re just going to go for what you think is a priority. It’s something we’re implementing at Alchemy – ensuring that a team has a regular catch-up weekly. When we do that, we all stay focused.
2. The more you do it, the less scary it is.
I was continually chasing down whoever my manager was and said, ‘Can we have some time together?’, ‘How’s it going?’, ‘What am I doing?’, ‘What am I doing well?’, ‘What can I work on?’. It was a contributor to why early in my career I had so many different opportunities and quick career growth. From the other side now, I can see that management was likely talking about what I was trying to do to improve myself, my career and my work ethic, so they thought of me for new opportunities.
3. Take the reins.
After receiving feedback, you should put your own plan in place (with your manager’s guidance) but it’s best if you own it; the more you own it, the better chance you have at improving.
“After receiving feedback, you should put your own plan in place (with your manager’s guidance) but it’s best if you own it; the more you own it, the better chance you have at improving.”
What advice would you give to managers about giving developmental feedback to their reports?
1. One size doesn’t fit all.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about delivering developmental feedback is you can’t deliver it the same way for everyone. When you’re dealing with humans, we’re all going to respond differently. The challenge is understanding the receiver and building a rapport with them. Some people don’t want to hear the exact issues, they want to hear the themes. Some people want to hear the minute details so they know exactly what they need to focus on. So it’s really about understanding what management style they like to work under to ensure that we deliver that as best as we can to suit. Ideally, the feedback would come from the direct report too so they have regular support.
2. Don’t deliver developmental feedback without positivity and ongoing support
You need to have some positive reinforcement about what they’re doing well. Some advice I received in training is to present three positives to one negative. So for every piece of developmental feedback you give, there should be three or four positives. Now that’s pretty challenging. But I think if you balance the positive with the developmental, then the message is usually received well. Continuous support is also a must. You can’t just give them feedback and walk away – you’ve got to check in on it. As a leader and a manager, you’ve got to put something in place to allow them to succeed and improve on that developmental feedback.
3. Take a human approach
Use your own experiences to soften the message and show that you generally care and you’re doing it because you want them to succeed and you want them to develop. You want them to have a career path and you want them to go to the next level. Understand what’s going on in their lives outside of work; sometimes the reason they aren’t performing is related to that. Knowing what they’re dealing with changes the way you deliver a message.
How important is giving and receiving developmental criticism for Alchemy’s future?
We’re a young company. We’re developing our culture and how we deliver developmental feedback is part of that. The biggest thing that I’m focusing on is ensuring because we’ve grown so quickly, that there’s a structure and training in place so that everyone’s still connected. Twelve to eighteen months ago it was easier to stay connected with 40 people as opposed to having 60 plus people now. We’re going to make sure that we have the right people around us and that the wonderful leadership that we have from Jamie and Sarah-Anne continues to stay within the business. So we can lead with care and empathy; a part of which is giving and receiving developmental feedback.