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Delivering Performance-Related Feedback

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30 October, 2020

Bhavin Surela
Bhavin Surela

Director of Engineering at Twilio

Bhavin Surela, Director of Engineering at Twilio, explains why delivering performance-related feedback is a cornerstone skill new managers need to master to the fullest and how it impacts conducting a performance evaluation.

Problem

Delivering feedback is one of the skills that many new managers are struggling to master. Many new managers fear confrontation and are afraid that they could hurt their reports’ feelings. As a result, they avoid delivering feedback. But by doing so, they are effectively undermining their reports’ efforts to correct their mistakes and improve their performance. Learning how to deliver feedback is the first step to conducting a successful performance evaluation of your reports.

Actions taken

After realizing that most new managers who would enter our leadership development program were struggling with delivering feedback, I decided to organize explicit coaching in delivering feedback. Besides, part of my recent efforts included coaching two new leaders to deliver feedback and help their reports change and grow.

I started my coaching by explaining to new managers why I would deliver feedback. I would deliver feedback because I care about people and I am concerned about their growth and career. By sharing with them my observations I could help them improve and further develop specific skills needed for their future employability and success. I would also show them how not sharing feedback could hurt people long-term. To better explain my motivation I would refer them to the book Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean, by an author, tech leader, and coach Kim Scott, who came up with the concept of radical candor to describe caring but straightforward feedback delivery.

Lessons learned

  • Our biases, inherent to all people, are impacting our behavior. To efficiently deliver feedback you need to explicitly be aware of your biases.
  • Coaching new managers can be exceedingly hard because they are often overly critical of their own work and may be highly sensitive to feedback. During the practicing sessions, avoid comparing them with other people and make sure they don’t take anything personally.

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