Some thoughts on feedback

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Todd Sauls
  • 490th Missile Squadron Director of Operations
There was a seven-year period of my early Air Force career where I received feedback one time, and that was a hand-written note on the MPF-generated form telling my supervisor to give me feedback.

Bad on my supervisors, and more importantly, bad on me.

As a ratee, don't do what I did and take a lack of official feedback as good news (no news is good news). If your rater hasn't given you feedback, don't be afraid to ask for it on your own. All Airmen mark on their performance reports if they received feedback during the reporting period and upon receipt of their signed performance report. Just to be clear, by feedback, the AF means face-to-face feedback using the prescribed form.

Why is that form important?

If one looks at the AF Forms 724, 931 and 932, covering feedback for E-1s to O-6s, they are all very similar. Those forms ensure that properly documented and purposeful, comprehensive feedback occurs. Your feedback session is not just a discussion of how well you are doing in your current duties as an Airman. You and your rater should discuss your current performance, education, fitness, professional military education, as well as your future plans and goals, and how to get you there. Feedback you receive is meant to be constructive and your progression through the Air Force ranks (or your transition back to civilian life) will most likely follow a very logical progression. In general, performance report ratings should not be a surprise--an Airman should not find out they are underperforming for the first time when they read their EPR/OPR.

A friend of mine liked to tell people feedback often is not accomplished because it is sometimes confrontational so people do not like to do it. If you are a rater, and you have a subordinate that has lacking performance, do not pass up that opportunity to lead.

Two things are going to happen: If they do not like what you have to say, they probably will not change their performance (that was your starting point anyway). If they do take what you say to heart and correct their performance, that is a win for both of you and the Air Force.

Additionally, asking a simple question like, "Why aren't you working on a degree?" during feedback can illicit many different responses. Maybe they didn't know they should be working on one or don't know the opportunities the Air Force provides. Perhaps they aren't working on a degree because they are overwhelmed by their work and private life. Your simple degree question quickly turns into a good wingman question and an Airman in need gets the help they require.

Feedback is important, followers require it, leaders are obligated to provide it regularly, and we are all followers and leaders.

Don't pass up the opportunity to lead!