Performance reviews are corrupted. Here is a 3-step approach to get more effective feedback
Performance ratings are broken. At many companies, they pack one-to-punch – they are frightening, and they are also time consuming. Leading guru Bob Sutton has said that if a typical performance appraisal were a drug, “it would not be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it is so ineffective and has so many vile side effects.”
Get more actionable feedback.
A vile side effect is that performance reviews are often full of vague statements that are not actionable. Unfortunately, this lack of effective feedback can disproportionately affect women. In their study of performance appraisals, researchers at Stanford found that during performance appraisals, women were more likely to receive vague feedback that lacked specific guidance.
Another problem with performance reviews is that they are almost always 1: 1 – one person gives feedback to another person. This means that when everything has been said and done, the person being considered is presented with a mix of feedback that can be challenging to knit together.
At Asana Labs, where I work, my teammate, Joshua Zerkel, and I wanted to design a new, more action-packed, easy, and research-supported way for managers to gather feedback, especially in dynamic climates. We call it Feedback Switcheroo.
Feedback Switcheroo was inspired by the idea that a leader’s own team – collectively – is in the best position to create action-oriented feedback for their leader. Your team is a team for a reason.
Here’s how Switcheroo works.
Ask each of your team members to submit one action that you can implement.
A Switcheroo starts with everyone imagining that they are you – the team leader. Encourage your team members to step into your shoes. Ask them to observe how you interact in meetings. Ask them to look at your calendar to get a full understanding of your daily work. Encourage them to reflect on your goals and priorities.
Why does this perspective take a critical first step? Research shows that team members and leaders often suffer from what is called “perceptual distance”, which means that your team members probably have a different perception of your daily work than you. For example, your team may not know where you spend most of your time.
By priming the participants to bridge this perpetual distance by taking perspective, the goal is to inspire more active feedback that is informed by the actual daily work – not skewed perceptions of the work.
Then instruct each of your team members to:
Choose one action that you, your manager, want me to implement that will help you do your job more efficiently.
Ask each of the team members to submit the action they want. You can use a survey tool to collect these answers.
2. Ask your team members to vote collectively on the best action you can take.
Once you have gathered all the submissions, ask the team members to vote on the most important action they want you to implement.
This step is a form of structured brainstorming, which has been shown to be more effective than more commonly loosely structured brainstorming. By asking team members to vote based on all contributions, you will limit rigid thinking.
We found that when team members were asked to vote on the whole idea, many of them changed their choice because they discovered that one of their teammates had submitted an idea that they liked better than the original submission.
3. Select the winner.
Finally, announce the winner. Just by choosing one wins, the goal is to limit the information overload so that you can quickly implement the one change that will have the greatest impact.
Share experiences, not advice.
We designed the Switcheroo to be fundamentally different from a traditional performance appraisal. So the feedback you receive is likely to be different from the feedback you are used to receiving during performance appraisals.
When we ran Switcheroo, we found that team members wanted their leaders to share their experiences, as leaders, more broadly with them. Team members did not want tips, strategies and resources as much as they wanted to learn directly from leaders’ experiences, through storytelling, workshops or shadow opportunities. Some of these submissions included:
- Hold monthly team workshops to learn more about the leader’s experiences.
- Share career stories and turning points, and give advice and wisdom.
- Organize a shadow session to understand how our leader copes with strategic challenges.
Why is this experience-based knowledge sharing in demand right now? When you share information or advice with your team, it can often feel transactional – it often does not invite discussion, reflection or engagement. In contrast, sharing experiences can trigger very immersive experiences that promote greater connection and more humanity.
Design of feedback for our next working hours
The way we collect feedback must be updated for future work. Feedback Switcheroo is designed to help you gather feedback in a way that sets your team up for collective success. As a leader, it’s the most effective thing you can do.