Feedback is the foundation



Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. David Richerson
Holm Center First Sergeant


10/15/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- To build a durable structure, you must start with a solid foundation. The same philosophy applies to developing Air Force members. Honest and fair performance feedback is the foundation our Airmen need.

According to AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems, "Performance feedback is a private, formal communication a rater uses to tell a ratee what is expected regarding duty performance and how well the ratee is meeting those expectations. Providing this information helps an individual contribute to positive communication, improve performance and grow professionally. Feedback is mandatory for all officers, second lieutenant through colonel and all AD and USAFR enlisted personnel."

To properly develop our greatest resource, Air Force supervisors must set clear expectations. Subordinates want to know what is expected of them and how they are progressing toward those expectations. A rater must give an initial written feedback to their ratee within 60 days of supervision beginning to inform them of expectations and standards. Although 60 days are allowed, why would a rater wait that long?

Expectations should be communicated on day one, when possible, so the ratee has the information they need.

Halfway between supervision beginning and the projected date of the ratee's next performance report, a mid-term written feedback is required. In this, the rater informs the ratee how well expectations established during the initial feedback are being met and areas the ratee must improve on. While formal written feedback is required at specific intervals, it does not replace informal day-to-day feedback. Open communication between supervisors and subordinates on a daily basis is needed to ensure mission accomplishment as well as subordinate development. Ratees may also request an unscheduled feedback, as long as 60 days have passed since the last formal feedback. The rater has 30 days to provide this when requested.

Supervisors who fail to do feedbacks properly could mislead their ratee. If the feedback is confusing or deficient, the ratee may believe they meet expectations when they do not. The more honest information the ratee is given, the better they will be able to adjust toward the expected outcome, and the more motivated they will be.

Performance report ratings should never be a surprise to the ratee. That should not be the first time they learn they did or did not measure up.

Our Airmen deserve face-to-face, open, honest feedback about their performance and improvement areas. How well a supervisor conducts performance feedback may have the single greatest impact on a subordinate's development. If you are a supervisor in the Air Force, give your subordinates the foundation they need: Honest and fair performance feedback.