Feedback isn't a one-way street

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Recently I stayed at a hotel and it was the most pleasant stay I've had at a hotel in quite some time.

On my final day I was having lunch in the hotel restaurant and noticed two of the hotel's housekeeping staff (in uniform) getting ready to sit down to a very nice lunch. A few minutes later they were joined by a distinguished-looking man wearing a suit.

My curiosity was piqued and I had to find out the purpose of the special occasion. When the restaurant manager came by to check on my lunch, I asked if the hotel staff members were having some sort of appreciation lunch. He looked over at the table and said no.

Apparently this hotel was the WORST hotel in the chain just a few years ago. The man in the suit having lunch with the housekeepers was the hotel manager. Three years before he assumed responsibility for this poorly performing hotel and started regularly taking his staff members to lunch. The manager wanted the staff to share their ideas, regardless of their position, and utilize their feedback to determine what was or wasn't working.

The manager realized that if he wanted to change the culture of his organization, he had to have everyone's buy-in. He understood that unless all the members of his team had buy-in, he wouldn't turn his underperforming hotel around. The lunches took valuable time from his busy schedule, but he knew this investment was critical to making change.

So staff member by staff member, and lunch by lunch, he worked his way through the hotel's problems. Just two years after taking over, his hotel became one of the most profitable hotels and had the highest customer satisfaction scores in the country.

I share this with you because the Air Force's Performance Feedback program, if used properly, can give your unit similar results. What better way to get buy-in on the unit's needs then by asking each of your people how they think things are going, what is working, and what isn't working?

A good feedback session should include a performance assessment from each participant's perspective. In addition, take a few minutes to talk about the unit's strategic plans and how the subordinate can be an important part of it. Not only will you have the opportunity to gain fresh perspective, you are also providing validation to this individual.

The success of our wing will depend on each and every one of our people having buy-in. Giving just a few minutes of your valuable time each drill weekend to obtain input from your people will gain you the commitment we need to succeed.