What Great Bosses Know about Face Time & Feedback

Great bosses know that most important thing they do is help others succeed.

That’s why feedback from the boss and face time with the boss are so important. Your feedback lets employees know where they stand, how they’re valued and where they can grow. Face time provides them your focused attention, a chance to be heard, and an opportunity to pick your brain.

Here’s the best part: Properly done, feedback and face time are priceless — yet they cost you nothing. That remarkable investment equation is well-known to top managers. But even the best know they have to be vigilant about maintaining a high-quality connection with staff or they’ll allow other daily duties to crowd it out.

To keep you focused on feedback, here are six things every manager needs to know:

1. There’s a feedback gap. Mind it, then mend it.
Employees want more feedback from bosses than they receive. It’s been documented in newsrooms. Call it a “feedback gap,” as one recent survey does. I know from first-hand experience, reading thousands of evaluations of managers attending our Poynter programs, that staffers regularly yearn for more and better information from their bosses about their performance.

2. If people say they don’t get enough face time with you, that complaint is probably a compliment.
The more you’re respected, the more staffers crave quality time with you. (If you doubt that, think back to the worst boss you ever worked for, when your goal was to minimize contact!) But guidance is golden when it comes from a great boss. One researcher calls this “source credibility” and says it is a key factor in an employee’s positive response to feedback. So, if staffers say they need more from you, don’t get defensive, get generous.

3. Feedback is directly connected to motivation.
Competence, progress and purpose are powerful intrinsic motivators. People want to do more of what they’re good at, what they’ve mastered and what’s meaningful. Employees rely on you to identify their gaps, their growth — and their “go-to” status on your team when they’ve achieved it. They want to know their work makes something or someone better, that it does some good. It’s not sappy or silly for a boss to remind them about purpose; your feedback is fuel for their internal engines.

4. Not all feedback is created equal.
It takes practice to get good at feedback. It needs to be specific, not vague; consistent, not irregular; individualized, not generic. Even praise can fall flat if it comes with strings attached, seems insincere or incomplete. I once watched a manager sigh as she read written feedback from her boss. To every question about her skills, he had written just one word: “excellent.” There was space for explanation, details, documentation. He offered none, and it disappointed her. His feedback was efficient, but could have been so much more effective.

5. The value of feedback rises in times of change.
Change can be exciting but also unsettling. People want to know how they fit in an evolving environment. They may lack confidence or cling to an old competence. Your communication skills need to be at their best, applied liberally and strategically. I always teach that when you’re managing change, information is currency — and feedback is like a personal check.

6. Feedback works best when it’s part of the culture.
Imagine a workplace where everyone can say, “I have a good sense of how I’m doing and how I fit into the big picture here.” Imagine an organization where annual evaluations contain no surprises — good or bad — because they’re simply a recap of ongoing conversations between bosses and employees. Imagine a place where encouragement is common and customized — and criticism is a lever, not a hammer. It happens when feedback is built into the organization’s culture, and there’s a shared assumption that it’s every employee’s right and every boss’s duty to do it right.

You may not run the company, but you can influence the culture. Be a role model with your own team. Try doubling your feedback and improving the quantity and quality of your face time.

Then let me know what happens. I’m eager to hear YOUR feedback.

Let’s wrap up our “tour de face” with a couple of contrarian questions: Can’t we overdo this feedback thing? Aren’t there some employees who appreciate a boss who just says, “If you don’t hear from me, assume you’re doing a good job” and then stays out of their way?

I’ll answer in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Face Time and Feedback.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.

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