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​​Let's Talk About Feedback

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​With the wrap up of 2017, my company is concluding our annual performance evaluation process. I realize that some organizations are moving away from annual performance reviews to less cumbersome processes designed to encourage more ongoing feedback. With that in mind, this blog post isn't intended to debate or take sides regarding the frequency of formal performance evaluations. Rather, I want to stress the important role regular feedback and communication play in our personal development as well as the growth of our team members.

Through frequent conversations with practitioners who are relatively new to the internal audit profession — including both people within and outside my organization — it seems there is a disconnect when it comes to feedback. Manager-level employees tell me they often provide informal feedback to the staff and senior auditors who work with them. Meanwhile, those same managers' staff and seniors say they don't receive enough feedback, don't know if they are "on track," and don't know what they are doing well and what they can im​prove. This is where a few simple conversation areas can reap great benefits.

For those in a supervisory position, ask your team members:

  • What does feedback mean to them?
  • How do they know when they have received feedback?
  • How do they prefer to be recognized for a job well done (e.g., public praise vs. private)?
  • How do they prefer to receive communication (e.g., face to face, text)?

For those on the receiving end of feedback, share with your supervisors:

  • What feedback means to you.
  • How you best receive feedback.
  • How you know when feedback has been provided.
  • Your preferences for being recognized.
  • Your preferred communication styles.

Optimized working relationships are based on mutual trust and communication. Developing relationships with those with whom you work will go a long way in facilitating an environment where mutual trust and communication are at the forefront. If communication and informal feedback are provided regularly, and if provider and recipient of the feedback share an understanding of the message, the formal evaluation process is just that — a formality, which should be free of surprises.

On this topic, feedback should not​ be limited to manager-level employees. Internal auditors in staff, senior, and equivalent positions are in a prime spot to see first-hand where their team members are going above and beyond and also those situations in which they may not be fully pulling their weight. If you are in this position, I encourage you to thoughtfully share such feedback with your peers instead of viewing it purely as a management responsibility.

In Richard Chambers' recent blog post, "Five Internal Audit Resolutions for 2018 and Beyond," he advises internal auditors to take the offensive in the war on talent. For those who are in a management role, one of the ways we can do this is by ensuring our team members receive regular feedback about what they are doing well and areas where they can improve. Both of these are key components of the talent management and development process.

There are situations during the feedback process in which it may be tempting to point fingers at whether feedback is the responsibility of the supervisor or the person receiving feedback. I believe this should be a shared responsibility. If you are not getting feedback regularly enough, ask for it and initiate the conversation regarding what feedback is to you. If you feel that the team members you supervise are not receptive to feedback, talk with them and initiate the conversation about what feedback means to them. After all, if we want our internal audit departments to be viewed as high performing, it is incumbent on all within the department to take the right steps to get us there.

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