Why manager feedback is the best form of workforce planning


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“Get some perspective.” That’s the best advice I’ve ever received as a manager. And I took it to heart, because during my 20 years as a C-Suite leader at Cisco, the only formal feedback I got was when I asked for it.

My experience is not unusual. Most organizations treat feedback as a bottom-up process – mainly in the form of performance evaluations for individual contributors. In fact, performance reviews are now a top priority among HR professionals, reflecting the current push to “put the right people in the right places.”

I wish this emphasis on performance evaluations was about staff development and career development, but that is not the case. Instead, it is clearly driven by cost reduction or control.

The reason for better feedback from managers

My view on workforce planning and management has always focused on the chicken-versus-egg question. Do employees make a company great? Or do leaders and managers make a company great? I absolutely believe that no company will ever be among the best in the world if it does not have the best managers in the world.

Managers are either your best talent magnet or your worst talent nightmare. Have you checked the statistics on bad managers? They are terrible. Bad managers have an outsized impact on attracting and retaining talent; the essence of planning and managing people in any organization. And alarmingly, most organizations have relatively few competent managers – typically less than 10% of the total manager population. (By the way, I hate to point out that “competent” is a low bar.)

It’s time to make manager feedback a priority

I believe that the way feedback is used focuses on the wrong target. Most organizations spend too much money and time finding out how their employees are doing. How involved are they? How did they perform this year?

What if employers instead harnessed the power of feedback to understand how administrators are doing? After all, employees cannot feel empowered and build a successful career without the support of great, good or even competent managers.

In 2024 we must choose the chicken over the egg. That means we have to answer these questions:

  • Do we have the right managers to move our organization forward?
  • Do our managers live up to our talk?

I’ve spent the past decade researching these questions at hundreds of companies large and small, and luckily I’ve found a few that invest deeply in their managers. Although the sample size is small, these companies clearly show that happier, more resilient teams can coexist with strong market performance.

Let’s make 2024 the year of the manager

It seems to me that most organizations have forgotten about managers. Their development has taken a backseat to other priorities. That’s why I call 2024 the ‘year of the manager’. I may be lonely on the mountain for crying out loud, but I brought a game plan to share. And now I’m looking for some lonely idiots to join me.

So here’s my 2024 plan to help organizations engage with their most important employees: their managers. If you want to nurture and grow great managers, take these three steps:

1. Know the values ​​you look for in a manager

If you expect managers to walk the talk, what values ​​do you want them to internalize? If you don’t know, the feedback you share with them won’t be helpful.

I have come to believe that organizations reflect the personality traits of their leaders. What should your leaders on the front lines stand for? What kind of culture do you cherish? How should that culture be reflected in the mindset and behavior of managers? Determine what you expect from your managers and be prepared to communicate about that on an ongoing basis.

2. Recognize feedback as a vehicle for development – ​​not evaluation

With the strength of your leadership, you must be clear that feedback is not an “up or out” mechanism. Reframe it as a path to building on each manager’s unique strengths. Building strengths is the opposite of evaluating performance. It enables people to grow and succeed.

As a team leader, this is true you gotta walk your talk. Make it a priority to align development and learning resources around building strengths within your managers. If you do it right, it can be your most productive, cost-effective expense of the year.

3. Use 360-degree feedback methods

The endless stream of employee surveys hasn’t worked, but 360s have. Why? With a 360 approach, managers are involved in the process. Peers who participate and provide input also usually know the manager. This creates the right conditions to act constructively on the results.

Start improving manager feedback now

I founded The Culture Platform (TCP) specifically to help managers become better at ‘walking the talk’. On some level, I want all managers to have an easy way to experience what I experienced at Cisco. I was the “lonely weirdo” who wanted to hear feedback on how I could be a better manager. That’s why I proactively sought feedback from others in the organization.

It worked for me. I received many compliments, which I appreciated. But most importantly were the comments that indicated how I could improve. These insights made it possible for me to see where and how I could grow. And by focusing on development in those areas, I was eventually ranked as the team’s top manager in my last role selling Cisco.

Are you a lonely fool like me? Let’s start a movement and make 2024 the year of the manager.

If you would like to see how TCP can work for your organization, please message me at [email protected]. I would be happy to help you get started with a free trial period. Or visit us online at TheCulturePlatform anytime.


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