In today’s business environment, time is a commodity. And in the “new normal” of downsized companies and limited resources, many leaders are finding themselves both doing the job as well as managing those who are doing it.
So when the need to provide constructive feedback arises, leaders must find a way to have this important conversation. And although fueled by the best of intentions, the conversation sometimes doesn’t go as planned. I am convinced this outcome is often due to a flaw in our feedback approach.
Let me explain.
In this time-crunched workplace, leaders sometimes “save up” important feedback conversations and pile multiple messages (a.k.a. grenades, bullets, arrows…name your weapon) in one dialog. In our mind, we are being an effective multi-tasker, you know making well use of limited time with our employee. In fact, we’re taken aback a bit when the meeting doesn’t go as well as we planned.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, you may not realize it, but there is a possibility you are packing feedback grenades. Consider these three feedback principles and disarm the unintended perception you are creating for your team.
#1 Remember, your employee is hearing your message for the first time.
The need for constructive feedback typically grows over time. A trend in negative behavior occurs enough (without self improvement) the supervisor feels the need to address it. He thinks about it for a while then determines the best approach with the employee. Once the meeting finally occurs, the leader has “lived” with the performance issue for some time. However, the employee is hearing this message for the first time. And in many cases, the employee may not have been aware there was even a problem.
As your employee reasons your words, he is also trying to maintain composure, and reconcile your assessment of his work. And when we say “By the way, while we’re together, here’s one more thing I’d like to talk to you about,” conversation continues, the employee shuts down. He is still trying to understand the first issue you raised. And from the employee’s perspective, every time he hears you say, “one more thing”, he hears, “take cover”.
#2 Effectiveness should always win over efficiency.
While the motive may be a good one, delivering multiple feedback messages in an effort to save time will backfire. Those few moments you give one on one attention to your employee is invaluable. If received well, performance improves and the right results are achieved. In addition, it’s one less management issue on your plate. If behavior doesn’t change, you are potentially beginning the recognition of employee performance that could lead to more serious discipline. Don’t risk the shortcut on time at the risk of future results.
#3 Employees should not want to “take cover” every time you give them feedback.
We know the first commandment of feedback is to provide both positive and constructive messages to your team. Let’s face it, aside from “good job”, positive feedback is sometimes harder to deliver than the improvement messages. But remember, every interaction you have with your team sets an expectation about you. If every conversation with you is always about the job or about what needs to improve, your team begins to dread those moments they see you approaching or those times you ask for a brief chat. In a time-stretched workplace, you have to make each moment count. Your employee must know you have their best interest at heart and that when you talk, you ensure conversation about all aspects of their performance.
So, here’s the challenge. Think about every person you lead and the feedback you have given them in the last seven days. Did you create casualties of war? Here’s hoping not. But if you did, take these three practices to heart and start mending your soldiers.