Lesson Three to Being a Good Manager: Honest, Constructive Feedback

TL;DR - Read this. This blog post systematizes what took me years to develop on my own, almost subconsciously.

It took me a while to realize why getting negative feedback from good managers didn't feel humiliating or personal. It's because it came from a place of caring and sincerity.

If your report fundamentally believes that you are completely invested in their well-being professionally, then getting negative feedback becomes about making them a better professional. This is not to say that negative feedback can't be threatening. At some point, if a negative behavior is repeated with no recourse for correction, a manager may have no choice, but for the most part, if feedback is given timely and directly, a professional that cares will course correct.

Read the linked article above. If you're about to become a manager or are already one, read it. And then think to yourself, do you care about the individuals in your team? I would go as far as to say that those who are incapable of sincere caring shouldn't be managers, or at least, will never be a great one.

If you can't sincerely care about your team, it's really difficult to get them to perform beyond expectations consistently. Why should they? You don't give a damn about them, why should they make you look good by firing on all cylinders and then some? Now, some hellbent managers can get above average performance for short periods of time by putting the team under duress, but that's not sustainable. They'll eventually quit on you. It's sad, but I've witnessed plenty of managers who either don't care (and don't bother to hide it). They're just known as dicks. Then, there's the ones who don't really care but try to pretend they do. They're known as smarmy insincere dicks.

Then, there are the managers that were either taught the incorrect manner to give feedback or just have no backbone to deliver negative feedback/criticism.

I can't remember when in my career, but at some point, I was taught the HR "shit sandwich." The way it works is you deliver a positive piece of feedback, then the negative feedback, and then another piece of positive feedback. At some point, someone actually thought this was a good way to deliver negative feedback so as not to upset the employee too much. The big problem was that the employee barely heard the negative feedback and walked out of that meeting thinking there wasn't anything they needed to change. You are thinking, "Oh. I'm done delivering the negative feedback. That report is now going to fix it." And now starts the cycle of cognitive dissonance that leads to usually the report losing their job (which is BS to make the negative sound positive. This is cowardly management.

A really counterintuitive outcome of radical candor is how loyal your team becomes to you. I've been blessed to be the beneficiary of this several times. Even in delivering some course correcting feedback, your team will love you for it.

I was on the phone with a report and I was talking animatedly while providing feedback on a presentation she had constructed. Some may even think it sounded like I was screaming at the person. I was making statements like "but didn't you think to do X?" or "how does that make sense?"

After the call was over, my wife, overhearing my conversation, asks, "That seemed harsh. Was she crying or upset with you when you hung up?"

I said, "No. She thanked me."