Feedback That Keeps Things Moving Forward

We are all familiar with the "sandwich" approach to giving an employee feedback: say something positive, slip in the negative (ahem, "constructive") message and then wrap up with another positive. This way the recipient will leave the interaction feeling good and will take the negative piece away too. Nonsense! People see through this management trick. They don't even hear the final accolade because they are still processing the corrective "meat" of the sandwich. In fact, any critique hits … [Read more...]

Book Review: To Sell is Human

"We're all in sales" says author Daniel Pink. In fact, in a Gallup study people reported spending 40% of their time working in what Pink calls "non-sales selling," convincing/influencing/moving people to decide or do that does not involve anyone making a purchase. Dan Pink is always intriguing. Let's look at a few things his book has to say that apply to managers. In my experience, the higher a manager is in the hierarchy, the more frequently he/she engages in non-sales selling and the higher … [Read more...]

The Army’s After Action Review–a Model for Performance Feedback

The US and Canadian armies (among others, I'm sure) are famous for its post-event after action review (AAR). Whether it's a mission,  a tactical maneuver, or just a patrol, the individuals involved meet immediately afterward to debrief on how it went and what they can learn for the next time. This goal is to quickly and consistently capture new learning and give the squad–both as a team and as individuals–instant feedback and a way to improve right away.   The four questions they ask … [Read more...]

You Can Receive Feedback as a Gift or a Scolding

Consider the following two versions of feedback given by a boss, in response to an employee leaving errors in an important report for the Board: "I've gone over your report and found you didn't include the sidebar paragraph that explains Figure 6 on page 18. Please add it in right away and get the revised report back to me. I need it to go out today and I need it to be complete and easy to understand." "I've gone over your report and couldn't believe how sloppy and unreliable you are to … [Read more...]

They Won’t Know if You Don’t Get it Right

Recently I spent two days teaching front-line managers in an installation service company how to have effective conversations around job performance. The training included an approach that was new to the managers and thus involved for them a new way of thinking. Instead of telling, they were to do a lot more asking of questions and get the employee to take greater accountability. At the end of Day 2 I turned the meeting over to the Director of Field Operations to sum up and close. He left … [Read more...]

Change Your Words, Change Their Minds

I continue to be amazed by that fundamental truth about living: how we choose to see a situation dictates the choices we–and others–make about it. Take a look at this 2-minute clip that demonstrates it better than any more words I can write. You will be glad you did. How you choose to deliver feedback on an employee's performance will have a huge impact on how he/she responds to your message…acceptance, in the spirit of learning, denial, as a victim, or angry counter attack. How you … [Read more...]

Praise their Process Over their Competence

The name and work of Carol Dweck keeps coming up in discussions among experts in cognitive development. I wrote a review of  her important book, MindSet. In it she talks about two fundamental mindsets in people (and, therefore, of course, in employees): Fixed and Growth. Someone with a Fixed mindset believes they can't get any better, improve their skills, or turn around a failure. Growth mindset people believe the opposite. Therefore, they are much more open to feedback, to learning from … [Read more...]

4 Steps to Effective Performance Management

The Institute for Corporate Productivity recently came out with four recommendations for putting in place an effective, robust process for managing and recognizing individual performance. Focusing, as is their wont, on the practices of high performing organizations, their research found that: Less than 20% of organizations in general have managers who are very highly or at least highly skilled in conducting performance reviews. Critical to managing individual performance effectively is … [Read more...]

Practice Difficult Employee Conversations

Frequently in my management workshops and always in my coaching practice, a manager will bring up a "difficult employee" situation and ask how they can have the tough conversation with that individual. Usually it is about some area where the person is not performing adequately. Sometimes it relates to a negative attitude, a generally lazy work style, or resisting appropriate work assignmnents. The challenge in these conversations is to (1) keep your cool, (2) listen for how the employee … [Read more...]

Cause, Not Blame, Produces Better Performance Feedback

I subscribe to Alan Weiss's thought provoking monthly email newsletter called Balancing Act. In his latest issue, he offers the following tip: Here’s a quick secret for getting along and playing nicely in the sandbox: When something goes amiss, don’t look for guilt, look for cause. Focus on correcting the situation and not blaming anyone. The former develops support, the latter enmity.While he mentions it in a more general context of human relations, it is a good reminder for managers whose … [Read more...]