In research done by Office Vibe, it was discovered that a staggering 65 percent of all employees felt that they don’t get enough feedback. This is similar to Gallup research which shows that only 26 percent of all employees agree that the feedback they are given enables them to do their jobs better. If not enough feedback is being given, and even that little that is provided doesn’t inspire better work performance, it becomes inevitable to start thinking that feedback isn’t enough for employees to succeed and that managers need to look at things differently if they are to get the best from their teams.
This article shares some suggestions on how the needed change can be brought to reality.
Discard Past-Oriented Feedback and Start Providing Forward-Looking Coaching
One of the reasons why so few employees regard the feedback they receive as beneficial to their future performance is that the traditional way of providing feedback carries several shortcomings. First, giving feedback is regarded as a sporadic incident, such as the annual performance review. This removes the provision of feedback from daily affairs of running companies, so it is no wonder that such feedback is practically of no value in driving better performance.
Secondly, the traditional way of providing feedback makes it a top-down undertaking in which superiors usually dwell on what an employee isn’t doing. This comes off as criticism which doesn’t have any purpose regarding future outcomes. Employees therefore “have to bear” the dreaded performance review, and then get back to their daily tasks.
It is now time to cast aside this obsession with the past and shift focus to the future. Managers need to start thinking of how future problems can be avoided and how employees can be helped to use their strengths to attain the objectives of the organization.
This process of coaching employees is better suited to triggering better employee performance since the coaching conversations happen in real-time as different situations unfold in the workplace.
Managers should not think that the past cannot be referred to during these coaching conversations. Rather, how that past is used is what matters. Traditional feedback is more of blaming while coaching is about using the past and the present to draw lessons in order to shape the desired future outcomes. So, use the past as a springboard from which to lead your team into the future you all want.
Make Coaching Conversations Two-Way
The workplace has changed so much in the recent past. Rigid hierarchies are melting away as teams become more agile and technology takes over many functions. In such a setting, the top-down feedback delivery becomes woefully inadequate since in most cases, there are many shades of grey to every issue at the office.
This is where two-way communication becomes vital. The manager who is coaching the team member needs to listen to the opinions of the team member so that both parties understand where the other is coming from before agreeing on the next steps.
If the “conversation” is one-directional, then performance improvements become unattainable since all the necessary factors to bring about change haven’t been explored.
The two-way conversation should happen at a high frequency in order to nurture a culture of open communication at all levels. As already mentioned, a lot of change happens very fast and conversations have to be held on what is going on in order for the desired adjustments to be made in time. Think of it this way; if your team member is having difficulties using a new technological tool, wouldn’t it be better to have a conversation about his or her challenges immediately rather than wait for that person to fail to deliver a report on time and then you blame them for making the team fall behind? Communicate frequently so that proactive steps are taken to sidestep problems before they happen or get worse.
Individualize Coaching Conversations
Coaching always focuses on an individual in an attempt to draw out the best while overcoming weaknesses. Coaching conversations should, therefore, be very personalized in every detail possible.
For example, think about the team member you are going to have a difficult conversation with regarding their unsatisfactory performance. Is that person mentally in a good place to have a meaningful conversation on the matter? Is that individual the type to prefer the hard facts of the matter straight up or you have to raise the issues gently?
You need to invest time and effort into knowing your team members so that the way you conduct coaching conversations with each of them is tailored to the individual attributes of those members.
When that happens, your team members will feel that you understand them, listen to them and have their best interest at heart. An employee who regards you in this light will be more than willing to hear out and act upon what you have to say. There is no one-size-fits-all during coaching conversations.
The beauty of having frequent individualized coaching conversations is that the stress and anxiety associated with giving unpleasant feedback reduce drastically. This is because of your in-the-moment involvement in the work-life of the employee forestalls most problems or at least nips them in the bud before they escalate. Additionally, the frequent conversations pave the way for delivering unpleasant feedback since a culture of communicating freely has been nurtured. It, therefore, isn’t hard on both parties when this piece of negative feedback has to be delivered.
As you can see, while employees crave for feedback about their performance, you as a manager must move away from not just providing useful feedback but also doing so with the future, not the past, in mind. The past is behind all concerned, so a simple glance in that direction is enough before you put your focus on the current reality and the future. When you get to the point where your entire team understands your vision of the future and you work collaboratively to move in that direction, then you will have succeeded in your role as a manager.
To Your Success,
Jairek Robbins + Team PCU
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