Thursday, April 1, 2010

Your Career and You: Feedback..."How am I doing?"

I had a meeting with a friend this morning who is at the point in her youthful career where she's wondering "What's next?" She has done a great job for her current employer, and she loves everything about the people and the place. But she's ready for new challenges.

My first question, as always, was "Well, what do you want to do next?"

This led to a very insightful conversation that, at its core, had one recurring theme: "How good am I at what I'm doing? And can I continue this success someplace else?"

That got me to thinking about well and how often do we, as either PR professionals or professors, give meaningful feedback to our employees, advisees, or mentees?

Some of us comfort ourselves with a "Well, I gave her a raise. She knows I value her work." But here's a surprise...that's not "feedback."

Feedback is a two-way conversation during which you actually sit down with the individual and review his or her work. What pleases you about the work? What could be done better? Where would you like to see this person improve...and how can the two of you make that happen? In other words, real "I know who you are and what you contribute to my organization" dialogue.

I'm as guilty in the omission as anyone. I often forget, because I have the utmost confidence in those young professionals in their skills and abilities, that I worked in public relations longer than they've been on this earth.

I also forget that I, too, was a novice in this field once upon a time and that I spent countless hours second-guessing my actions simply because no one gave me any feedback other than "Here's a promotion" or "Here's another medal." Greatly appreciated, but of little use in my moments of angst.

So, my learned and highly experienced brethren, take a moment during the day to stop, look, and provide feedback to your younger (and not so young) employees, advisees, mentees.

And don't be reluctant to provide criticism along with the praise. Nothing is perfect, so let them know if they're not meeting expectations...and let them know how they can improve.

Why? So that they will flourish and grow under your care. It's all about preparing the next generation of communicators. Through feedback, they learn lessons and they continue to get better at their jobs...and your job gets easier.

As the Gryphon said in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "That's the reason they're called lessons...because they lessen from day to day."


  1. As someone mid-career, I echo the point that feedback isn't only for younger staff. It's how we manage up, and how we know that we're on the right track ourselves. We should never get out of the habit of asking for and providing feedback.

  2. You're absolutely correct, Jon. The day you stop asking for feedback is the day your ego has taken charge and you're on the path to complacency or, worse, irrelevance.