Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute, and Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco Systems, say that managers and organizations are overestimating the importance of critical feedback. They suggest that when managers focus on correcting weaknesses, managers lose sight of how to get exceptional performances from their workers. They add that managers should focus on employees’ strengths and push everyone to shine in their own areas of expertise. To that end, companies may need to revisit how they review, pay and promote their workers. “The problem has become [that] we moved from constant ongoing attention, which is clearly a good thing, into a fetish with feedback on stuff that you need remediating on,” Buckingham says. Leaders should not waste their time on fixing workers’ weaknesses. He adds, “The best leaders seem to understand that each human is unique, and that the way in which they grow isn’t to turn weaknesses into strengths. That’s not what you see when you see performance in the world.” Managers can only share their own perceptions of where workers have weaknesses and potential areas for growth, but they need to leave the path of growth open to the employee. Performance systems, says Goodall, should focus on what the leader thinks or reacts or feels or experiences in response to each person’s work on the team and discern how to aggregate that. For example, managers should ask whether they go to certain team members for excellent work in a particular area. Buckingham advises that managers speak to workers each week about their near-term projects to get a better perspective on what parts of their jobs they love and which parts they loathe. Goodall also adds that managers need to think of a good job as the beginning of a conversation about how the employee can build on that and carry that momentum forward.
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