Don’t be a Drive-by Boss (part 2 of 3)

By Tom Davidson

It’s your job to build and maintain sufficient connection with your staff and other stakeholders even if you’re busy, overwhelmed with changing priorities. Here’s what you can do to stop being a drive-by feedback giver:

In this blog series, we’ve been discussing drive-by bosses, those managers who resemble drive-by shooters in the following ways:

1. Drive-by communicators who fire off short, curt or blunt emails and text messages from a safe distance
2. Drive-by feedback givers who toss loaded and hyper-critical feedback out the window in passing, without concern for (or awareness of) the damage
3. Drive-by delegators who lob indiscriminate and ambiguous delegations over the cubicle wall and then counterattack when the task is late, incomplete or not up to his or her standards

Drive-by bosses do one or more of these behaviors with enough regularity that they gain a reputation as a bully, whether they like it or not, know it or not. If you are aware of your impacts but don’t care, this probably won’t help you. But if you care and are aware of your potential impacts, please read on.

While we discussed drive-by communicators in the first blog in this series, today’s blog will focus on drive-by feedback givers. The next will cover drive-by delegators.

Drive-by feedback givers
The pace of your work, lack of leadership training or lack of awareness might be making you a drive-by feedback giver, someone who tosses morale-killing feedback over cubicle walls and then leaves the scene of the carnage safely behind.

The facts that you’re busy, overwhelmed with changing priorities, and are a task-driven manager may be understandable, but these factors are no excuse. It’s your job to build and maintain sufficient connection with your staff and other stakeholders. Because of your leadership position, no one else can do it like you, and no one can do it for you.

Here’s what you can do to stop being a drive-by feedback giver:

1. Balance your feedback with at least three compliments about what the person does well with every point of critical feedback. While this formula varies for every individual and situation, recent research shows that a 3:1 ratio is needed just to maintain a good working relation; 5:1 is needed to build equity, especially with the newest generations in the workforce.
2. Ensure that there are no surprises when it comes time for the quarterly or annual performance review. This means that you will need to have many face-to-face feedback discussions with each of your staff members with such regularity that they will know exactly what to expect in any formal review process, long before the review meeting itself. This also means that they will have had a chance to change their results (i.e., what they get accomplished) and their behaviors (i.e., how they do their work) along the way and won’t feel blindsided by the result.
3. Get their feedback on you at least as frequently as you give it to them. Not only will you learn sooner what you can do to improve your leadership, you too will avoid unnecessary surprises in your own performance reviews.

By doing an honest self-assessment of your feedback-giving methods and frequency and by doing more of the above, you will eventually change your reputation from being a drive-by feedback giver to being a stop-by feedback giver.

What other tips do you have for everyday managers in giving and getting feedback?

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