Boost 2: Two-way feedback through 2x2s

ops-boost-2If you’re a manager, hopefully by now you have created lots of opportunities to give feedback to the people who report directly to you. We all deserve the opportunity to grow in our roles. But how often do you ask them for feedback? We’re all super nice in the nonprofit sector, and you may be thinking, “oh totally, I’m open to feedback all the time.” My guess, though, is that if you haven’t made it a thing, then it’s not happening, or at least not happening as much as it should.

At my organization, GEO, all our managers go through The Management Center crash course training. If you haven’t taken it yet, it’s absolutely worth it. You get lots of great tips, and their book, Managing to Change the World, is one of the most thoughtful and practical guides on organizational leadership in our sector. One of the tools you learn about in the crash course training is the 2×2. I think part of the reason it works so well is because it’s so simple. Our managers do it quarterly, at a minimum, with each employee who reports to them. It goes like this. You each describe “two things I’m doing well, two things I could improve, two things you’re doing well, and two things you could improve.” It gives a time and a place to providing two-way feedback. It creates a regular moment of self-reflection on how you’re doing as a manager. Through 2x2s, I’ve learned about some of the unintended consequences my actions have on my colleagues, like forgetting to close the loop on decisions or not being clear with my expectations.

It takes about 15 minutes to get ready for the 2×2. Here’s an example of how a manager might prepare for the conversation:


  • Two things I’m doing well: making introductions to people in other organizations who can help you achieve your goals; creating opportunities for you to show leadership at staff meetings
  • Two things I could improve: getting you feedback on written documents faster; letting people across the organization know about key decisions our department has made
  • Two things you’re doing well: staying on top of deadlines; writing for different audiences
  • Two things you could improve: informing me of the progress of the landscape scan project; helping our board interpret our financials

The person who reports to you does the same, and you exchange notes in the meeting.

Don’t overthink this. Just try it as an experiment in your next check-in. I think you’ll both find it worth the time.

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