The importance of timely, honest feedback

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marvin Fisher
  • 62nd Airlift Wing director of staff
Throughout our careers, we've all been told the importance of timely and honest feedback. In fact, it's required to be documented on every performance report. Although a date is almost always on the performance report, many of us have known individuals that haven't received feedback, or their supervisors told them, "I give you feedback every day." The importance of timely and honest feedback is as crucial for the supervisor as it is for the individual. The exercise of sitting down and taking time to fill out a feedback form before the session can be extremely valuable. If done right, it forces the supervisor to think hard about their subordinate, what they've accomplished, and what they need to improve on. If the supervisor realizes they don't know them very well, this exercise should provide some insight on whether he or she needs to get to know their troop better.

I believe the most important thing about feedback is honesty. I am a firm believer that human nature is averse to confrontation, and nobody likes giving bad news. If you have an employee that's not up to standard, or has areas of weakness, then you owe it to them and the Air Force to let them know. I would bet they already know their weaknesses, but would respect you more for reminding them of the areas they need to improve on.

When I met my promotion board from captain to major, I was relatively confident that my record of performance was strong enough to get me promoted. As it turned out, I was promoted, but not selected for in-residence Professional Military Education. My supervisor pulled me into his office after the promotion results were announced. He congratulated me on my promotion, and offered condolences since I wasn't picked up for school.

He stated that he was surprised I wasn't selected for PME. Honestly, I knew exactly why I didn't get picked up for school, and if he was familiar with me or my record he would have too. From that point forward he lost all credibility with me for any feedback he had given in the past, as well as any future feedback. I realized he was a leader that wasn't able to provide honest feedback. If he couldn't be honest, then how good of a leader was he?

While I am continually amazed at how outstanding all of our Airmen are, not every Airman is a "Firewall 5", and not every officer deserves a top stratification. As a leader, you owe it to yourself and your troops to provide honest feedback, early and often.