Good feedback — honest 2-way communication

  • Published
  • By Maj. CLarence "Icy" Lee
  • 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron
After two years at Keesler, I've dealt with many complaints dealing with military and civilian personnel who felt that they had been wronged on their enlisted performance reports or appraisals. Day to day, things seem to be going well. Then all of a sudden they get their performance report -- to their surprise they've gotten something less than what they thought they deserved. That's not right! 

I believe that everyone should know what their EPR or appraisal should look like before they actually receive it. And no, supervisors, I don't mean you should show it to them prior to submitting it -- that causes even more problems. I'm talking about giving "good" feedback!  I'd venture to say that over 75 percent of the Air Force doesn't give or receive "good" feedback. If we did, we wouldn't have as many miscommunications as we do today. When someone wants to talk to me about EPR/appraisal issues, I always ask to see a copy of their feedback. Most of them never received a feedback. And those that did have a copy of their feedback, I usually saw no indication that the individual did anything to deserve a markdown. Yes, it's the supervisor's prerogative to mark an individual down as they see fit without any documentation. But how about having the moral courage to let them know in advance that they need to improve in a certain area? That's where leadership comes in. A little honest communication can point a person in the right direction. 

What's "good" feedback? As a supervisor, clearly spell out your expectations. The first day you get a subordinate, let them know what you expect from them -- What time do they need to be at work? What exactly is their job? When and where is physical training? How should
they look? What's the phone etiquette? Leave no stone unturned. If you've never
told them what you expect from them, how can you properly evaluate them? What
does your perfect subordinate look and act like? Tell them. You're initial feedback
should spell out what they need to do to be a firewall "5" or "9." Always remember,
"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." In the next formal feedback about six months later, revisit the initial feedback and let them know how they're doing in each area. Be specific -- if they need to improve in an area, give a specific example. Be honest -- bad news doesn't get better with time. Often the individual never knew you had an issue with them because you never told them. If you let them know that there's a problem and they continue that action, then take further
appropriate actions to change the behavior. Without that "good" honest feedback, you
can expect the "Why me?" questions. On the other hand, subordinates, if your boss hasn't sat you down and provided you
with a "good" feedback, you should be asking for one. I fully understand that
most people don't take feedback well -- get over it. The purpose of feedback is to
make you better. But even without a formal feedback session, you should know
that if you're constantly late to work, you have a bad attitude, your uniform is wrinkled,
you're always the subject of some kind of controversy in the office, you're
disrespectful to others, you're probably won't get a firewall "5"/"9." Often the
real answer is you're a knucklehead. Unfortunately, your supervisor isn't a very
good leader and has a problem telling you to your face. If you feel that you're heading
the wrong direction, don't ask your knucklehead peers who are in trouble more
than you. Sit down and ask your supervisor what can you do to get better? You'd be surprised how well that works. Bottom line -- leaders lead! Great leaders are good at looking someone in the eyes and giving them good, honest feedback. It's not easy to do, but it's necessary if you want to ensure everyone's on the same page and moving the
organization in the same direction