For employees to thrive (and stay!) they need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. One of the best ways leaders can help employees feel this way is to give them timely and effective feedback on a regular basis. In other words, feedback that matters!
Now, I get that giving feedback isn’t always easy. For that matter, neither is RECEIVING feedback, but we’ll talk about that next time. Often when we hear the phrase, “I’d like to give you some feedback…” our defenses go up and we prepare for the worst.
Giving feedback, however, shouldn’t immediately trigger a negative response. Feedback is actually very much a positive. It’s a real opportunity to help someone get better and stronger. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to help our employees get better and stronger.
Remember, employees want to know how they’re doing. You may believe “no news is good news” yet your employees may not see it that way. They may interpret your silence as apathy, and begin to wonder, “Why do I even bother?” Take the time to acknowledge and show appreciation for their efforts. Likewise, if there’s an issue, don’t assume it will resolve itself. Unless you say something, they may not realize there’s a problem. Poor performance does not improve with age.
Effective feedback is a gift and provides benefits for all.
Here’s how to give feedback that matters.
Make it timely. This doesn’t mean you have to praise them each time they complete a task. Be sincere! It means saying “thank you” immediately when they’ve made an extra effort or providing praise shortly after they’ve solved a complex problem or achieved a new skill. It also means giving negative feedback no later than 24 hours after observing the behavior. And be sure the feedback is based on your observation rather than what you’ve heard from others. Giving feedback regularly will help you build trust with your employees and make them more receptive and motivated to improve.
Make it specific. Focus on facts not feelings. Use the SAR method. Situation. Action. Results. “Thank you, Jane, for stepping in to complete that report while John was out. Without your help we would not have been able to complete the project milestone.” Or, “Bob, I’ve read through your proposal and some of the figures don’t quite add up. Accuracy on these proposals is essential to avoid future issues with the client.” Be sure you don’t fall into the “but” trap. “I really like your approach on the presentation, but I think the slides are too busy.” What will the employee hear? “The slides are too busy.” Use “and” instead. “I really like your approach on the presentation, and I think it will have more impact if you have fewer words on each slide.”
Be kind. As frustrating as the behavior may be, keep a check on your emotions and words. Stick to the facts and focus on the solution moving forward. Help them understand how what they do – or don’t do – impacts other individuals, the team, the project, or the organization. Also, be sure that you conduct negative feedback in private.
Listen. Deliver your feedback in a manner that allows a two-way conversation versus a finger-pointing monologue. Be open to the employee’s ideas as to how they might improve. Include them in designing the development process.
Follow through. Giving the feedback and recommendations is just the first step. If you leave it there nothing will happen. Once you’ve clearly defined expectations and next steps, help your employee improve by keeping them accountable. Set specific goals and periodic check-ins. Revisit the conversation to acknowledge progress made and/or reinforce development plans.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard
For more on feedback, tune into my “Giving Feedback That Matters” podcast.
Till next time,
As I work with leaders in different organizations, I’m hearing a common frustration: “there’s no sense of accountability.” When things don’t get done – phone calls returned, reports submitted on time, projects completed on time and within budget – instead of people owning the problem, they make excuses or shift the blame.
“I don’t know how it happened.”
“I think Sally is the bottleneck.”
“It’s not my job.”
“I didn’t have time to do it.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“No one else got theirs in on time.”
Sound familiar? I agree with Ben Franklin, who said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
It’s time to ditch the excuses and create a culture of accountability. And it takes leaders, teams and individuals working together to create and maintain that culture.
Set the example by owning up to your mistakes, oversights, missteps. If you never accept personal responsibility for something, how can you expect your team to?
Find (and share) the lesson in the failure. What could you have done better, what will you change? Acknowledge the impact that your actions (or lack of action) had.
Create a trusting environment with open communication where all team members are encouraged to share successes and failures for the purpose of learning and continuous improvement.
Be clear about expectations. Employees are responsible for tasks and activities and accountable for outcomes. Be sure those are clearly defined and understood.
Hold people accountable. Be clear about both expectations and consequences.
Understand what accountability means. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions." A lot of people use responsibility and accountability interchangeably. A responsibility is something you are required or expected to do, such as an activity or task. Accountability is you owning up to the consequences if you don’t do it or the outcomes are less than expected. Accountability is after the fact.
Avoid the blame game. Children often deflect blame because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Some adults do it for the same reason. Others because they are embarrassed and want to save face. Still others (one particular example in the news a lot lately) because their POV is that nothing that goes wrong is ever, ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s. Pulease! Be a grown up. Accept the blame. Apply what you learned. And do better next time.
Ditch the excuses. Instead simply say: "Yes, it was my fault. I dropped the ball. Here’s what I learned. Here’s how I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again."
As a team, hold each other accountable. Get clear about interdependencies and the impact of mistakes and missed deadlines. Work on creating an environment of open, honest communication that will support this.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” – John Wooden
Till next time,
An essential part of your role as a leader is to develop your employees, both by coaching to their natural talents, and by providing development opportunities in areas they need to strengthen. Identifying those development areas should be a collaborative process (leader and employee) based on the employee’s career goals, your observations, and the needs of the organization. Effective, interactive feedback is a key component of this process. I’m not talking about the annual performance review that rarely does more than elevate everyone’s stress level. I’m talking about regular, timely feedback that reinforces and acknowledges strengths, and identifies and addresses development areas. Yes, this means more frequent one-on-one conversations with employees; and yes, it involves more time and effort on your part. And…the returns in terms of employee motivation, engagement and retention are so worth it.
What’s your approach to giving feedback? Are you doing it on a regular basis? Here are some best practices to get you started.
1. Give it often. Employees want to know how they’re doing. You may believe “no news is good news” yet your employees may not see it that way. They may interpret your silence as apathy, and begin to wonder, “Why do I even bother?” Take the time to acknowledge, and show appreciation for their efforts. Likewise, if there’s an issue, don’t assume it will resolve itself. Unless you say something they may not realize there’s a problem. Bad performance does not improve with age.
2. Make it timely. This doesn’t mean you have to praise them each time they complete a task. Be sincere! It means saying “thank you” immediately when they’ve made an extra effort, or providing praise shortly after they’ve solved a complex problem or achieved a new skill. It also means giving negative feedback no later than 24 hours after observing the behavior. And be sure the feedback is based on your observation rather than what you’ve heard from others.
3. Be specific. Use the SAR method. Situation. Action. Results. “Thank you, Jane, for stepping in to complete that report while John was out. Without your help we would not have been able to complete the project milestone.” Or, “Bob, I’ve read through your proposal and some of the figures don’t quite add up. Accuracy on these proposals is essential to avoid future issues with the client.” Be sure you don’t fall into the “but” trap. “I really like your approach on the presentation, but I think the slides are too busy.” What will the employee hear? “The slides are too busy.” Use “and” instead. “I really like your approach on the presentation, and I think it will have more impact if you have fewer words on each slide.”
4. Listen. Feedback should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Be open to ideas from the employee as to how they might improve, or how they’d like to better utilize their natural talents. And set a good example by being open to their feedback about your approach, leadership style, communication, etc.
5. Follow through. Giving the feedback and recommendations is just the first step. If you leave it there nothing will happen. Help develop your employees by keeping them accountable. Revisit the conversation to acknowledge progress made and/or reinforce development plans.
And most of all, be respectful and kind. A recent New York Times article gave some shocking statistics about rudeness in the workplace and how it impacts employee health and performance, creativity and customer loyalty. Guess what? Nice guys (and gals) finish first. Be one.
Till next time,
In the leadership development workshops I conduct I always include some kind of action planning at the end. After all, learning is a process not an event, and I think it’s important for participants to have some follow-through goals to continue that process. One of the activities I like to use is called: Stop, Start, Continue. I might ask, “Based on what you’ve learned about how you lead, and where your strengths and development areas are, what are you going to stop doing, start doing and continue doing?”
I think this is a good exercise for everyone to do periodically. And now that we’re nearly halfway through the year, I thought I would provide it to you as an opportunity to do a mid-year assessment and determine what’s working well that you need to continue, and where the gaps or issues are that point to behaviors that you need to start or stop.
Much of my work is focused on helping leaders and teams become more aware of their strengths, development areas and how they are perceived by others – how they “show up” on a normal day and on those days when they are under pressure or stressed out (no one has those days, right?) This knowledge, or self-awareness – contributes to better performance, improved communication, deeper relationships, and more overall success.
So here’s your assignment. Find a quiet place, grab a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a bottle of water or another beverage of choice, and think through the following.
What are your top 3 - 5 qualities? Think about things like purposeful, reliable, collaborative, imaginative, or any other qualities that have helped you succeed. How well are you using those qualities in your current role?
What are 3-5 “derailers” for you? These are those “overextended” behaviors that happen when you are stressed or under pressure. I like to think of them as “too much of a good thing.” For example, if you are evidenced-based on a good day, under stress you might get lost in the details; if you are spontaneous, when under pressure you may become impulsive; or if you are collaborative on a good day, when stressed you may be so focused on getting everyone’s opinion that you become consensus-obsessed.
Now, think over the last five months and write down one really great achievement – a situation when you just nailed it. And then write down a situation where you fell short of your expectations. What behaviors contributed to each?
Once you’ve thought through these items you’re ready to create your Stop, Start, Continue plan. Based on your review of the past five months, what’s one thing you’re going to stop doing, one thing you’re going to start doing, and one thing you’re going to continue doing? Write them down. Assign a date. And post your list somewhere you can refer to it often.
And whatever you do, DON’T stop believin’.
Till next time,
Employee engagement has been a hot topic for awhile now, with some pretty staggering statistics around engaged vs. disengaged employees and their respective business impact. A number of studies have shown that companies with engaged employees fare much better than their counterparts with employees who rate themselves as partially or fully disengaged.
To get a closer view on what’s happening in corporate today, PeopleThink interviewed human resources professionals across a variety of industries – hi-tech, biotech, professional services, architecture, nonprofit and healthcare. Despite differences in their core businesses, when it comes to the people component, there were a number of common themes that emerged: keeping employees engaged and motivated, retaining top talent, having the right people in the right positions, and ensuring that there is sufficient “bench strength” for the next line of leadership. Here are some of their comments.
“We need to continue to invest in the people infrastructure. Our employees need to have development plans in place so they can see there is a future with the organization.”
“We have to put the needs and future of our organization first, and then plan backwards: provide development and promotion opportunities; recruit the right talent.”
“Build the talent road map. What will the organization’s people needs be one to three years out? What competencies? What level of employees? Build the talent plan to move, grow and flex with the organization’s business needs.”
“It’s important to maintain company culture. One of the things I hear on a regular basis is that people want to work here because of the culture and how employees are treated. It comes from the top. How we treat people is how we keep our people.”
“Each leader of the organization needs to have a successor they are training and preparing for the next role. Leadership can be viewed as a second-tier component of the business; however, what we know is that without strong leadership, the organization will not be able to sustain its growth.”
The clear message is that organizations need to recognize that their people are the lifeblood of the business. Don’t take your employees for granted. As the economy continues to improve and there are options for them elsewhere, you want to keep those employees in your organization. Find creative ways to develop and challenge them. Let them know they are valued, and that they are a critical component to the business moving forward. Build succession plans to ensure that your bench strength is available and ready to grow the business.
And most of all, don’t forget the old adage…treat your employees the way you want to be treated. It will pay off in leaps and bounds in the future.
Till next time,
We all tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This is true in our friendships, our relationships and, yes, our work teams. We hope that by focusing on those similarities there will be more harmony and, by extension, a better, more productive work environment. But think about what “harmony” is, in the true sense of the word. It’s NOT everyone singing the same note. It’s people singing different notes that creates harmony.
As a team leader, it’s easy to fall into like = harmony thinking. Avoid conflict. Get to the performing stage quicker. Shorten the decision cycle. And yet, without giving air to those different notes – different ideas, strengths, approaches, views – you miss the opportunity to create something innovative and new. Same ol’, same ol’ produces the same ol’, same ol’. Every time.
Consider this scenario.
Mike is about to meet for the first time with a temporary project team he’ll be heading up for the next several months. The members were assigned to him, so he had no input into their selection. He’s disappointed that he wasn’t asked to pull together a team from “his” people, who think just like him. Life would be so much easier. He hasn’t met any of the team yet, but he’s spoken with four of their managers and has made some notes.
Robert. Quick-thinking. Direct. Not afraid of conflict or challenging the status quo. Confident and decisive. Track record of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Competitive. Task-focused.
Yolanda. Lots of ideas. Good at creating a vision and inspiring others to follow. Outgoing and friendly. Likes variety and flexibility. Tends to change topics quickly during discussions. Relationship-focused.
Gary. Quiet and reserved. Great listener. Works to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Good at coordinating efforts and maintaining strong relationships. Strong focus on values.
Barb. Analytical and detail-oriented. Excellent at ensuring all bases are covered. Processes information by asking questions. Lots of questions. Takes a systematic approach to decision-making.
Mike wonders how he will ever be able to meld these diverse styles together to complete the project. He worries that Robert will compete with his leadership, and that Barbara will get too caught up in the details to get anything done. And how will Yolanda and Gary work with the other two?
Mike decides that the only way forward is to embrace the differences instead of fearing them. And a magical thing happens. Yes, there are some conflicts at the start – as there are on all teams – but those conflicts, and the different approaches, perspectives, talents, ideas, and strengths harmonize into a final product that is far superior to anything Mike in his monotone world had ever seen. Because…
Yolanda created a vision.
Robert kept them on track.
Gary ensured they were heard.
Barb let nothing fall through the cracks.
Want to learn more about individual styles and the value each can add to your team? Contact PeopleThink: 415.440.7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next time,