The Role of Feedback in The Process of Delegation


This article will focus specifically on feedback in the process of delegation. And though there are many reasons a boss, team, or co-worker might ask for feedback from others, it should be heavily integrated into the act of delegation.

Feedback, like all communication, is an interaction. Feedback involves more than merely one person who critiques another, or the work of others. The word "critique" generally refers to critical reviews, whereas feedback should combine any criticism, with complimentary comments, as well. The focus will relate directly to the objectives written to meet the goals. It is about the quality of the work, and the production process as it relates the final product to the goals. The objectives state what is required to step toward the goals. Given in the spirit of support, feedback gives the worker a standard to hold to. Work requires a standard of performance, and a manager must inform his team what that looks like, when setting the goals and objectives. They should be the guide both to the work and to the assessment. It should be clearly stated from the beginning, so there is no surprise about the expectation, or if the result of the work met that expectation.

Like all communication, feedback is connected with listening. A review of work should match the goals and objectives set up in the beginning. In fact, it should be so clear that the team members should be able to know exactly what the manager will tell them when he gives them feedback. It is objective. The ability of the manager or team leader to assess the work of others, again, is a skill that takes practice to do it effectively and professionally.

In most production, the feedback evaluation is assessed by asking questions and listening to the answers, looking at the data or product, and examining the process of production. Asking questions that gain results with depth and meaning, takes some thought. The manager prepares these questions ahead of time, uses the goals sheet to guide him, or her, and pays attention to the words that form the questions. It is in the proficient manager who choses words that bring out a thorough response. Using active verbs, as opposed to passive, is the secret to being adept in this.

Focus Points:

1 . Questions should be couched in active, not passive, voice or words.

If you ask a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or if you ask a question that suggests an answer, you will find out very little. Questions asked in ways that get the other person to express an objective claim about their results of the assigned task is what feedback is all about. The manager will assess what has been accomplished and the success of methods used. The person is not the focus of this. Feedback will be focused on the work, and if it accomplished the goals the team previously set.

If you ask about how something was accomplished, why this particular path toward the outcome was picked, or simply what their thinking was as they weighed the pros and cons of the different methods they considered, then you will get an answer that gives information about the person's thinking, ideas, creativity level, and work patterns.

If you ask how long the web page took to complete, or where they got the information used, or which method they choose to follow, you will get some basic facts. These answers, however, will not prompt a response of an individual's activities. The purpose of feedback is to ask questions to gain profitable responses. Asking questions that give little information about the active production, thinking, and creation -- this type of questioning feels dull, the time wasted, and leaves a feeling of disrespect for those who work hard and should be feeling good about it. Given a chance, most employees want to be part of the thinking activity that goes on in every organization. Most want to talk about their work.

Questions that use active verbs -- like explain, describe, demonstrate, show, model -- will gain a response that allows the manager to assess the work and give appropriate feedback, both positive and negative.

2. Questions should be part of the process.

When the manager is preparing materials, assignments, and planning the timeline with goals and objectives set for the team, asking for input with appropriate questions will guide the planning. Many heads are better than one. A brainstorm started with good questioning can be creative and open up new avenues for proceeding. They give insight into methods that will "fit" the team.

Getting your team members to open up about who might like to try something new, who might want to take a backseat this time, and who might be ready to develop new skills, gives you more information about your team's thinking than you might have thought. Discussions where you invite individuals to explain some new ideas, concepts, or a different way of looking at things will only communicate that you are open and they need not be afraid of stepping out on the quay and dipping the toes into their imagination. This kind of thinking will push your team into stronger bonds with each other and give individuals more "buy-in."

Questions prepared for use during the periodic monitoring will also give insight into how the team works together, the integrity of each person's work, and the skills and talents each brings. Feedback becomes natural. Questions should be posed in the beginning of the delegation process, during the work phase, when monitoring, and again at the end. This provides each person a chance to assess their own work, as well. Again, asking open-ended, active questions will gain the most useful information.

3. Questions give your employees ideas about you.

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The questions you ask will set the tone of the work. You can keep it positive, respectful, and creative just by asking questions. If you ask first about the problems, then the team will see that the problems are your focus. If you ask first about how they come up with the idea, or how it came together so well, not only will that communicate the fact you think their ideas are important, but that working together well is what you really want to see. In fact, it is this, that a good organization is based on -- employees working together with the same ultimate goal.

If your employees are in competition, afraid to share ideas, and wonder if someone will "tattle" about individual mistakes, then your chances for success in this office are nil. The manager sets the tone that may decide the success or failure of teams and individuals. You must lead how you want to be followed. Treat others like you want to be treated.

4. Listening is the only way you will be able to assess your employees and get it right.

Before you can listen, and acquire or give feedback, you must recognize that your personality might be getting in the way. If you cannot let go of that internal voice that tells you being "in charge," being "the boss," means you have to lead by talking, telling, inserting yourself into everything, then you will be a failure at listening. If you demonstrate anxiety about giving others the lead, stress over the use of ideas that are not your own, then you are ready to fail to listen.

Listening means you open yourself, your mind, your thinking to the minds of others. That is different than hearing. Listening is an interactive mental activity in which your brain absorbs and processes information from others. You hear things all the time that you never process or give thought to. Listening is giving thought to what you hear. Listening means taking time for others. Listening is being open minded in accepting that others often do have ideas that trump your own.

Why ask a question, if you don't really want to hear the answer? And in "hear" I am really meaning "listen." If your style is to throw out assignments, interrupt your team, tell them how you want it done, and then criticize what they do, then you will fail as an effective manager. Any feedback given to your employees will not be taken with respect.

5. Listening does not imply weakness.

Often, the more extroverted one is, the more a company perceives that person to be an "in charge" type of person. More often than not, however, an extrovert is incapable of listening. Companies often promote the extrovert more than the introvert, because the extrovert is perceived to be more capable of managing others. However, too often, the person who is always pushing to get ahead is incapable of working as a team, or of following. If you cannot lead by following the ideas of others around you, then you cannot lead well.

A good listener, a person who is able to actually process the ideas and opinions of others, is able to promote a more positive atmosphere, lead in a more effective way, and bring a team to a higher level of work.

6. Effective listening, in itself, adds to the quality of an organization or company.

A company that wants to move ahead, bring about innovative products and ideas, and create a strong and professional work arena will acknowledge the people who lead, by listening to others. This can be a difficult trait to recognize, unless those who are already in power are willing to listen, themselves. The bosses of this kind of company will be found in team meetings with their managers, and listening to them. The boss doesn't have to spend day after day in the presence of all workers to learn if their managers are listening to the teams. All they have to do is listen, themselves, when they have managerial meetings, and find out which ones bring ideas they have heard someone on their staff suggest.

The manager that is able to deliver to his boss information and ideas that have come, not from him but from his team, is a manager that is listening. On the other hand, if a manager comes to the table only with ideas he has come up with, then you might wonder if he is listening to anything his team is saying. A boss, a manager, a person in charge, can change the way a company listens by demanding to know what the workers think on a regular basis. This is getting feedback, as opposed to giving it.

There is a television show that demonstrates this in a big way called "Undercover Boss." In essence, the boss becomes an employee at the bottom of the ladder within his own company. With this experience, the boss finds out many truths about the organization, unable to reveal himself or assert what he is thinking. It is a forced listening period. Most bosses who go into this, come out with a humble attitude about the real health of his company. The man at the top usually finds out his team has not done a good job listening to the workers beneath them, and has been missing the truth about the company. Many find they have been losing ideas from the very people who really know what works and what doesn't.


A Scenario

Mr. Manager called a team meeting to discuss a new project on which the company had been hired to work. He brought a mock-up of a final project. He felt his idea was great, but decided to go into the meeting as though he was open to other ideas.

On the morning of the meeting, Mr. Manager provided donuts and coffee and orange juice, knowing that food always shows employees they are appreciated. He was prepared with some power point slides about the project requirements and with some information about the group who hired them to do the work. Mr. Manager was feeling pretty good about himself.

In the meeting, Mr. Manager gave the overview and showed the ideas he had prepared and moved forward on the development of the model. He detailed each part, feeling proud of his work and knowing the team would see it as a way to follow. After all, he thought he should be the leader and they should acknowledge that he was hired because of his good ideas, and they should be willing to follow. He also knew that it would save him a lot of time if the team just did it his way. They would save so much time in discussions and negotiation of ideas.

As Mr. Manager finished his presentation, Mr. Team Member asked about one of the requirements that suggested the client's company develop a product that was different from the status quo. Mr. Manager said yes, but they would probably accept this design, his design, because it was similar to what they had done before when he was on the team and not the manager.

Mr. Team Member sat quietly knowing that this client was moving in a different direction and Mr. Manager was not seeing that in the requirements. Mr. Team Member felt they were being asked to work toward a product that would not meet the demands. He also understood that Mr. Manager's ego would be difficult to overcome. He felt fearful of putting his job in jeopardy by expressing his own ideas, and giving information about the company he had read recently, that talked about their change in direction.

Though he did not want to ruffle feathers, he did not want to be part of work that would be unacceptable. From experience he knew his manager would not be open to ideas that went against his direction. He felt trapped and decided he needed to look for another job.

In this scenario, Mr. Manager was not only working against his team, putting them into a situation that could damage their careers, just to make his life easier, but some were considering leaving the company. It was not a great situation, but Mr. Manager was not aware of any of this due to the fact he was not willing to listen to his team, did not ask open-ended or active questions, and put up barriers.

Mr. Manager went back to his office satisfied that the team would follow his lead and since he was the leader that would reflect well on him. He also knew that this project would not require much from him and that was good, because he had a lot on his mind right now. He had no concerns, because he did not listen. His perception was that all was well. It was not.

Set up your physical or computerized notebook:

In your notebook, come up with 50 open-ended questions that lead the other person into expressing an in-depth answer. Then, remember to practice saying these questions and be willing to listen. It will take time to listen to the responses to this kind of question.
Then think about yourself. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How well can you let others take the lead?


1. What kind of questions have I asked in the past?

2. Am I able to listen to others' ideas and conceive of them taking leadership in a project while my ideas fall by the wayside?

3. Do I really think my ideas, my way of thinking is better than others?

4. Am I able to let go of control, and what will this look like?

If you are unsure of these considerations, go back and review the material.