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Feedback That Moves Everyone Forward

These three tips can help you deliver or solicit feedback that will spur professional growth.

Jun 4, 2024  |  By Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE

feedback concept
Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

Kudos to all for wrapping up another momentous school year. Following graduations, grade promotions and send-offs, many organizations (including NBOA!), are immersed in annual performance reviews of one kind or the other. This often presents an opportunity to provide feedback to your staff to help them improve their professional contributions and have a greater impact on their staff role. Unfortunately, some supervisors shy away from giving candid feedback, or they provide comments that are not as constructive as they could be. Even if you are not currently involved in a formal review process at your school, any management expert or HR professional would advise that feedback should be given as part of a manager’s ongoing relationship with those they supervise, and not wait until the end of the year or a formal process.

Hitting the right tone is more art than science. For this reason, I found the recent Harvard Business Review article, “How To Ask for the Feedback You Really Need” by Liane Davey, helpful for both supervisees and supervisors. Davey offers three steps to consider in the feedback loop.

“Choose one area of personal development per quarter.”

I know many managers that struggle with providing guidance, and once they find the time and opportunity to do so, they use it to get everything off their chest. It would be better, however, to focus on a single aspect of performance, writes Davey.  So, when you ask for or give feedback, focus on an area that is core to success in the role. If, for example, your payroll and benefits manager consistently procrastinates, focus on timely completion of their tasks, since it is vital to their success and organizational goals. Try to uncover any obstacles that may be hindering their effectiveness, which may generate greater empathy between you. Is the payroll software challenging for them and do they need more training? Do they need more time to process information? This provides the employee with the opportunity to maximize growth and job satisfaction, Davey explains.

“Home in on a target skill or behavior within your chosen development area.” 

If you’re like me and collaborate with a stellar team, your biggest challenge is finding meaningful areas of improvement for those who report to you. Rock stars expect this from their supervisor. If you identify an area for development, share it with your head of school or whomever your supervisor may be; I can almost guarantee they will appreciate it. What better way to ascertain meaningful feedback than by teeing it up rather than waiting for someone else to produce it for you.

“Ask someone to observe you working on your new skill or behavior, and share what they thought or felt immediately afterward.” 

Davey advises that you ask someone who knows you well to observe you in action so they can provide feedback in your developmental area. If, for example, you would like to present financials to the faculty more clearly and concisely so that they better understand your school’s financial position, a division or department head could be a good source for feedback on your presentation. Alternatively, you could solicit feedback from a trusted colleague immediately after your next faculty presentation. Specifically ask for the subjective impact of your behavior, advises Davey. These are areas that are difficult to measure quantitatively but are important to success in your role. Returning to our initial example, when you’re in the supervisor role, you might spend the week more actively observing the payroll manager. And consider the subjective impact of their behavior as well.

Specifically ask for the subjective impact of your behavior, advises Davey. These are areas that are difficult to measure quantitatively but are important to success in your role. 

Giving and getting feedback in organizations like our schools — the ultimate people business as I like to call it — is core to building strong professional relationships and a common purpose, and to demonstrating a mutual interest in each other’s success. Don’t shy away from it; go for it in a strategic way, as described above. You and your staff will have conversations that truly matter, and your schools will be more effective and desirable workplaces for talent.

Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields on LinkedIn.


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO


Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the NBOA since March 2010. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives, has been recognized as an ASAE Fellow (FASAE) and earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) professional designation. His current board service includes serving as a director for AMHIC, a healthcare consortium for educational associations in Washington, DC, as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association. Previous board service includes serving as a director for the American Society of Association Executives, as a director for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and as a trustee for Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Shields holds a BA from Shippensburg University and an MA from The Ohio State University.

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