March 2015

This month marks the 10th year we have published the Performance Pointer article series. Over that time, we have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with so many of you. You are the inspiration for the articles, most are written based on real challenges we see employees face. Because of you, we continue to offer this free resource and always intend to provide practical and relevant information that makes your job easier. Over the last ten years, our subscription list has swelled into the thousands, and for that, we are so grateful. All of us at Penumbra appreciate your continued interest and loyalty. I especially love getting notes back from you about the way that month's Pointer made a difference for you. Keep it up...and we will too!


All the best,



Fitbits, UP bands, comments on Facebook, re-tweets, reviews on Amazon, what do all of these things have in common?  They are all forms of feedback.  We take more steps, pay closer attention, and think before we purchase; in fact feedback makes our lives better in so many ways.  It drives us to be the best version of ourselves that we possibly can.  We yearn for it, seek it out, and allow it to make or break our outlook for the day, or sometimes longer.  Every manager worth their salt knows how important feedback is, and yet we refrain from giving it.  We hold onto it like it's the last cronut on the table at a fiscal budget meeting.  What is it that keeps us from providing our employees with these ever-so-helpful observational nuggets of truth?  Certainly, there are a number of different answers to that question with one of them being, we simply don't know how.


There are two types of feedback, positive/praise and corrective.  Yes, I used corrective instead of negative, things are feeling more approachable already.  Not many of us enjoy telling someone that in spite of their best, or lack thereof, they are under-performing.  The word corrective has a very different connotation than the word negative: corrective implies help and guidance.  It demonstrates to our subordinates that we want them to be successful.  Corrective feedback should feel like an outstretched hand, not a black mark on their record. 


Praising your employees is the easy part.  It makes them feel good, it makes you feel good, and it should be done as often as possible.  When it comes to positive feedback nothing is insignificant.  Being personally recognized for a job well done conjures a feeling of pride in workmanship that will not soon be forgotten.  The only rule to offering accolades is making sure it is warranted.  The late championship San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh  nailed it when he said, "Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment."  Complimenting for the sake of complimenting could possibly even be interpreted as condescending. 


We've discussed the two types of feedback, let's talk about how it should be delivered.  Most, if not all of us have heard about the  sandwich or hamburger technique.  Now that I've mentioned it, I want you to erase it from your brain.  Never, ever give feedback this way.  It is confusing and it undermines what you are actually trying to accomplish.  Repeated feedback via "sandwich" delivery will eventually lead to your employees running away as fast as they can, at the slightest inkling that you are about to bestow kudos upon them. 




Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at some other tried and true methods that actually make sense:


  • Corrective feedback should be given when the recipient and the contributor are at their best.  If someone is not a morning person then don't pounce on them the moment they walk through the door.  Remember, corrective feedback is a form of guidance; we want it to be absorbed and understood.  It shouldn't feel like a sneak attack.

  • Corrective feedback should also never be delivered in an email.  That's like breaking up with someone through a text message.  Regardless of their infraction or performance they deserve to be addressed face to face. Have a heart, or least appear that you do. 
  • Contrarily, praise through email gets a green light.  Nothing beats the feeling of being praised in public, but if you are dolling it out as often as you should it's not always going to be possible.


As human beings we want to be accepted and included.  Depriving your staff of feedback whether it is corrective or positive acknowledgement is like being the quarterback of a blindfolded football team.  The potential and talent are there, but no one knows where they are going or what they are supposed to do.  Lift your team up as often as you can and if they begin to stray offer your experience and wisdom to get them back on the field. 


And, no matter what...don't give them a sandwich!






"Corrective feedback should feel like an outstretched hand, not a black mark on their record."

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