How many times have you looked at that line on the enlisted performance report that says, “Last feedback was performed on,” and had that sinking feeling in your stomach? Any experienced Air Force supervisor knows the feeling; the inadequate sensation that comes with overlooking a simple responsibility, albeit one with enormous potential impact.
The importance of performance feedback cannot be overstated. It allows the supervisor to communicate in a private setting and informal environment with a subordinate.
In today’s Air Force, modern technology (text, email, social networking, etc.) has rendered even phone conversations as secondary status, thus reducing the amount of face-to-face interaction even more. The ability to have a private, yet informal and open conversation with a subordinate is both a great responsibility and a great privilege. The Air Force requires supervisors to perform feedback, but often supervisors never consider that with the responsibility comes great opportunity as well. Feedback allows the supervisor an opportunity to know a person, rather than just work with him.
The number of lower-ranking personnel who have never received a productive feedback session concerns me. Yes, the form is completed, and yes, feedback was conducted. However, how productive was the session? What did the subordinate learn about the EPR? What did the supervisor learn about the motivating factors for the subordinate?
I was a technical sergeant with just under nine years’ time in service before I received my first productive feedback session. The information garnered could have helped me four or five years earlier, but my previous supervisors were either too lazy or never valued the importance of feedback. Having discussed feedback with some higher-ranking personnel on base, I found my story is typical rather than atypical.
It’s easy to become complacent, but that trap should be avoided. Help subordinates become the productive NCOs and senior NCOs they strive to be. Place emphasis on performance feedback, communicate openly and freely with those you lead, and continue to perform with excellence in all you do.