Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader


Daniel A. Robinson

Daniel is known as a master motivator and visionary leader with an unyielding drive to see those in his sphere of influence operate in excellence.

What the Feedback: Escape the Feedback Famine

In my 19 years in the Air Force, I am one of many who have never really received a “formal” feedback.  Usually, all I got was “its feedback time… sign, date and return to me.”  Like magic, I had that phantom feedback date on EPR.  This phenomenon is what can be referred to as the Feedback Famine; a communication drought that occurs when people do not receive enough information about their performance. Looking back, how was I supposed to know whether or not I was performing to their standard? Better yet, how was I to know if I was even performing to my own?

To avoid the famine, we need to understand what feedback is and how to master it.  Now that I am a little wiser than I was when I just signed my phantom AF Form 931s, I understand that feedback is the information we all need to be truly effective. In fact, the most effective leaders actively seek feedback to enhance their performance. These leaders intuitively recognize the power of feedback.

While we could focus on textbook answers, it all boils down to this simple truth: we conduct formal feedback to relay expectations, develop goals, understand our people, and keep them on track. We could do better relaying the “why” of formal feedback to our people at large. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact the vast majority of our people WANT to do well; they simply lack proper guidance and direction. We MUST provide that direction and set the example.


What the Feedback?

As supervisors, one of our biggest challenges is guiding and mentoring our people. Without doubt, feedback is our most critical tool, providing us with a broad mechanism that, when used properly, results in substantial gains on many levels. Unfortunately, we do not appropriately utilize this mechanism as often as required. In addition, we as supervisors often lack appropriate training and mentorship. As people, we often let personalities and emotion cloud our judgment.

There is no one silver bullet to solve our feedback dilemma. By dilemma, we’re referring to the constant struggle to both seek and provide feedback appropriately. Supervisors and subordinates alike often miss the point of feedback. Feedback is far more than simply sitting down with a subordinate and running through some check boxes on a form.

Feedback is about establishing a foundation of conduct and performance based on objective and measurable standards, identifying minimum expectations, and laying out individual and team goals. Moreover, feedback is an opportunity to re-address those same points over a period of time, to review a member’s performance over that period, and to provide an opportunity to help a member correct course when necessary.

Reference: The Total Feedback Package (v 2016-12-19-01)

**Editor’s Note: Join us over the next several weeks as we dive deeper into performance feedbacks with Daniel and Chief Vasser**

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