Where can you find feedback for your team?
Ambitious people love feedback. They are hungry for it and are aware that feedback is helping them grow faster. Most of us already have more or less structured performance review processes. Some have them once every quarter, bi-annually or annually. Delivering feedback with such a big delay as a quarter is absolutely too late. This is not the speed of feedback loop your ambitious directs expect. You need to deliver feedback weekly, on one on ones, directly and radically candid. But one of the most common excuses for feedback is “I don’t have anything particular, but good job last week”. What does it mean? How to find feedback that will really help your directs be better?
Feedback starts from observations
As a manager you sit in a first row for observations - you get context from everyone, you share context with everyone, you monitor progress. You should be very deliberate in observations and jot down situations that you feel had an impact on the team. If someone shows great enthusiasm or attitude, says something not appropriate, helps other team members, coaches someone about one’s area of expertise or anything that feels interesting - jot it down as an observation in notebooks assigned for every particular person.
Observations must be followed up by impact
Every day try to take the observations from last day and read through all of them. Think about what impact these behaviors had. Jack might show great attitude and energy towards closing out a project but lost it an hour later after digging into details. Not a big impact eventually. Mary might be late to the meeting for the tenth time in a row, but she is actually just an observer and is not blocking anyone - not a big deal. John might take initiative and coached his peer on good practices around testing, so his peer finished his task earlier than estimated. This is a good impact.
Thinking deliberately about impact is very important. If you put a lot of energy into observing step, I am sure that you will have a lot of observations to share with your directs. The problem is that most of them will be noise - not useful, random, not-impactful. Make sure that you sanitize them properly and leave only these one that you know had a positive or negative impact and are worth to repeat or focus on improving.
Share them with your directs
If possible, you should deliver your observations as soon as you are sure about the impact. As a manager, you are responsible for growing your people and you already defined the impact. Don’t ask for or listen to excuses. It already happened and you are talking together to make it better from now on or strengthen if it’s good behavior. Stand your ground if you really want to help them. In my opinion, it might be good to go through them once again on formal weekly 1:1 just to make sure that they are addressed.
Don’t be afraid of sharing feedback with ambitious people. They really are looking for that. If you don’t have any feedback for them regarding last week is a yellow card. Not having anything in two weeks in a row calls for a reaction of your manager. If you want your people to grow, you need to invest your time in observations and feedbacks. It won’t happen organically.