Providing objective feedback to managers

by 17 Apr 2007

Q. I have a manager who is simply not operating at the strategic level. They are a really nice person and their own team thinks they are wonderful but they are very operationally focussed. What things can I do to help highlight my concerns?

A. Highlighting your concerns in a very clear, balanced way is the very first step. Hopefully you meet with the manager regularly and track their performance with them so raising this issue won’t seem like a cataclysmic discussion.

Ensure it is a two-way discussion – seek to understand the dilemma from their perspective. Remember that people always have rational explanations for their behaviour so it is your role to help them understand its impact.

It is also useful to separate out symptoms from the causes – for example, are they not delegating because they are a perfectionist or are they lacking resources? Another way of thinking about your concerns is to try and understand whether it is a system issue.

For example, you may not have made your expectations clear or whether it is capacity issue, or the manager may be weak in strategic thinking skills.

It might be useful to seek feedback in a structured way such as a customised 360 degree survey approach. This step will potentially highlight the fact that whilst the manager will probably receive positive feedback from their own team they are not delivering what is needed to other stakeholders, particularly yourself.

The 360-degree report will provide you with a clear map to base your discussion upon and allow you to agree action to be taken.

It is often the case that people perceive the issue as an influencing upwards challenge (in this case changing your view) rather than a need to change. So once you have been through the diagnostic step, focus on helping the manager agreeing with you a plan for future action.

It is possible that the manager may need support to change. This support might take the form of individual coaching from an external source, training or regular meetings with you to measure whether expectations are now being met.

Agree and lock in the level of support that is appropriate as it is often very difficult for people to change their behaviour and sustain it over time.

Finally do not let the fact that they are a nice person and positively regarded by their team prevent you from putting the issue forward. It is your role to constructively assist your direct reports maximise their potential.

Try everything you can to make your expectations reasonable and clear and support the individual.

Ultimately you will need to make an assessment as to whether the person and the role requirements are well matched.

By Maryanne Mooney, director, Full Circle Feedback. Tel: 1300 553 351. Web: