A common question we are asked when coaching managers and supervisors is how to give feedback. While feedback skills are critical, in many instances, it is only a temporary fix to a greater issue impacting morale, employee commitment, creativity, innovation and potential.
Often, when managers are asking for this assistance, they are currently faced with that uncomfortable position of needing to tell an employee that they are not meeting expectations. There is a churning in the stomach or some type of anxiety in anticipation of giving the feedback. An employee is not meeting expectations.
So, our response when asked for help in giving feedback is typically, “How well did you make your expectations clear? How confident do you feel that they were understood?” and “How do you know the expectations were understood and would be carried out?” The answer is usually negative to all of the above. And that is likely what is causing the anxiety. So, we must treat this as a root-cause issue in performance management.
Setting expectations happens multiple times each day, occurring with our employees, suppliers, and colleagues. We have annual or quarterly appraisals, special projects, daily tasks, one-time assignments, common problem solving, and maybe assistance from someone. It may be a situation of collaboration, or even looking to another department or organization for service.
More often than not, we throw out a task in passing, only to be frustrated when that task was not done to our standards or expectations. While “fly by” management can’t be avoided completely, this type of “direction” will be unlikely to work unless a pattern of communication and clarity has first been established.
The components of this approach are:
State what it is to be done, whether it is a result, a method, or a problem to be solved. It is as simple as, “I need you to…,” “Could/would you…?” “Your role will be to…”
Explain why this is important to the business; i.e. how it ties into the mission and/or vision, how it will help the business grow, exceed customer expectations, increase financials, assist in professional development, innovate, or improve processes. Share how this individual task or project fits into the bigger picture; this ties the employee’s behavior to the desired results and creates organizational alignment.
Confirm that the expectation is understood. This is more than just a head nodding, or the other party saying “yes, I understand.” Ways to do this include: “What are your thoughts on this?” “Give me your take on this.” Ask for a restatement. For example, you might say, “I want to be clear, so share with me your understanding of this issue or process.” Or, you could also say, “This is important, so why don’t you share with me what you heard me say.” This will also make you a better manager, as you take accountability for your side of the communication. Plus, you will be modeling that you value clarity in communications.
Check for commitment to following through and meeting the expectation. You have just set a goal for the other party, and their commitment is critical to its success. So, you might ask, “Where will you start?” “What is going to be your first step?” “What processes might you use?” “What do you think should be done?” And include questions about timeline and deliverables, such as “When will you be able to give me an update on this?” Or “What do you plan to have accomplished by then?”
Notice that all of the suggested questions are open-ended, using words such as where, what, tell me, how, when.
But what happens when feedback is called for now? Can you still use this approach? Yes! Follow the same approach, but introduce it in the manner of recovery, “Perhaps when I gave you this task, I wasn’t clear about my expectations, so I’ll start over.” Or “When you started working here, I may not have been clear about what we value in this department, or what is expected of our employees.” Then, proceed from there with the same steps as before. The results will be amazing!
In our July article, “It’s No Secret, Service Begins at the Top,” we discussed how it is truly up to you to set the example and make your expectations clear about service in your organization. So, if you are in a position of needing to give feedback, think back to what expectations and behaviors you were communicating, then put your recovery in place and get a fresh start moving forward.
All in all, pretty simple; we just need to pay attention to the dialogue. Practicing this approach will help in personal and organizational alignment, morale, communications, commitment, and quality; making better people of all involved. FBN
Trish Rensink and Jamey Hasapis of the BelleWether Group bring over 20 years of experience with Fortune 500 companies, inspiring businesses and business leaders to change what they do and become more successful; helping them navigate change, gain focus, define their direction, and develop highly effective teams. They can be reached at 928-853-8206.