Monday, September 27, 2010

Reverse that straightens it for managers

We all dig giving advice! We just love it. As they say in Hindi “Aur kuch free miley na miley, saali advice free zaroor milti hai”. Managers are paid to do this  But in corporate jargon, this ADVICE is called FEEDBACK, or less obviously, APPRAISAL. These are strong undercurrent words, trust me. Regardless of how great a relation you have with you manager, things are always accompanied with a constant undercurrent- a realization of the fact that you are, well, subordinate and manager.

Appraisals, however complicated, are simple. Both, the manager and the subordinate, know a set of parameters, or more fancily, goals and objectives, on which the subordinate will be evaluated. There is a discussion and it is basically a game. Both of them have their view points and try to enforce these on to the other. Someone either prevails, or there is an intermediate area that is found, which keeps both happy till the next appraisal. It’s quite simple actually.
Appraisal is good in a way. Salary invariably increases, promotions mostly happen, some constructive feedback happens, and in the end, all iz well. Otherwise, there is attrition 

Anyway, for all its merits (or compulsions), appraisals, or simply, feedback, generally lack one very basic but fundamental element of EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This element is the REVERSE FEEDBACK, a word often treated with undue disrespect. Appraisals are mostly one way. Reverse feedback gives a manager tremendous opportunity to REALLY gauge the gap between the expectations of his subordinates and what he actually delivers. This is really very important because a manager cannot be effective if this gap is not 0. A manager knows what to expect from his subordinates, by way of a checklist handed to him by his HR.

But a subordinate expects the world of his manager. He does not know what to expect since he has no checklist. A subordinate literally grows and develops under his manager’s guidance, and therefore, the manager has a very important role to play in how his subordinate’s career sets. A lot of times, due to the mistakes or shortcomings of the manager, his subordinate has to take the beating. And the manager’s manager will not completely know the details of what has REALLY transpired. His only way to know is through the manager, his own subordinate. Reverse feedback, therefore becomes very important. And while no manager will admit or like being feedbacked by his subordinate, it really is very important. I would also go to the extent of saying that the manager’s true management lessons have to come, not from the text book, but from the ground level- the way his subordinate thinks about him.

It’s simple- Reverse feedback is more important to a manager than feedback is important to his subordinate.

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