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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2015

Provide and Seek Out Candid Feedback

By Col. Johnny Lamontagne 437th Airlift Wing commander

Providing valuable feedback is crucial to our success.  Ideally it should reinforce positive behavior and improve weak areas.  Both the officer and enlisted evaluation systems are built feedback and it is a crucial part of leadership development.  This holds true up and down the change of command. 

Positive feedback is relatively easy to provide.  From the leader's perspective, positive feedback doesn't cause any tension or significantly change the relationship between the supervisor and the subordinate.  Similarly, the person receiving the feedback enjoys hearing the positive impact they are making on the mission and perhaps the great things they are doing to take care of their Airmen or civilians assigned to them. 
While providing positive feedback is certainly comfortable and important to an extent, constructive criticism is far more valuable to the individual.  It can also be more difficult to deliver.  This is true for Sergeants and Colonels and everyone in between.

Supervisors are often reluctant to provide criticism because they don't want to have an awkward conversation about areas of improvement or, perhaps, they don't want to hurt their subordinate's feelings.  They may also think the recipient doesn't want to hear perceived "negative" feedback.  Ironically, subordinates are usually thirsty to learn how they can better do their job.  Since subordinates are eager to know how to improve and the supervisor is interested in improved performance, this essential conversation must occur. 

Just as important as providing constructive receiving it.  If a leader provides it to you, accept it and ask for more.  If taken to heart, the feedback should result in improved performance by the subordinate, a positive impact on the unit, a pleased supervisor and, in most cases a more favorable performance report for the subordinate.  It is also imperative for leaders to listen to their subordinates.  You can get constructive criticism from those above you, as well as those who work for you.  You may have to be persistent or creative to pull it out of those that work for you but it can lead to better results and improved performance for the entire team.

So, in short, thank you for your service and your commitment to each other.  Now please tell your teammates what they want and need to hear (both the good stuff and the constructive stuff too)...up and down the chain of command.