in SaaS

Give the “why” behind your feedback, else you’ll warp your team’s behavior

Early in my career, I was sometimes given feedback to the tune of “this isn’t good enough, change it to ….. (my manager’s opinion)”. I’ve worked in tech marketing, where this is extremely common.

I’d ask why, but the reason wasn’t well articulated, or it wasn’t articulated “customer-first”. This in turn led me to change my behavior. Instead of creating marketing that would resonate with our customers, my primary goal was to do work that would get my manager’s approval.

That was incredibly frustrating… the realization that you’re doing something so that the manager approves it, and lets go live. It was difficult to know if I was right or wrong, it would all depend on the manager’s opinion at the time of reckoning.

I suspect the larger problem occurs when this seeps into a company’s culture, and the north-star becomes “what will my manager think?”, versus “how will this make things better for our customers?”.

After I started managing people, I have made the same mistake. But I try to recognize and check myself when I can, and make an honest attempt to explain the “why” behind any feedback I’m giving.

If I can’t give a well-articulated “why” for a subjective opinion or feedback, then I think harder about it, and try to understand why I “feel” that ways. Overall, this has allowed me to explain things better, get buy-in from people around me, and provide some context + direction to those I manage. Most importantly, I’m more often able to steer a decision towards what we as a group think is best for our customers.

So yeah, if you’re managing people, please provide the “why” behind your feedback.

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