In the bestseller “Good to Great,” Jim Collins discovered that “the good-to-great companies continually refined the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality.”
And, in his recent autobiography, Jack Welch reports that he spent about half of his time on people: recruiting new talent, picking the right people for particular positions, grooming young stars, developing managers, dealing with underperformers and reviewing the entire talent pool. Says Welch, “Having the most talented people in each of our businesses is the most important thing. If we don’t, we lose.”
Why is it that many of us put off giving feedback to our employees even though we intuitively know that giving and getting honest feedback is essential to grow and develop and to build successful organizations? Maybe it is because there are so many ways to screw it up.
Here are 10 common feedback mistakes:
1. Speaking out only when things are wrong. “Praise to a human being represents what sunlight, water and soil are to a plant—the climate in which one grows best.” —Earl Nightingale
2. “Drive-by” praise without specifics or an honest underpinning, e.g., “Great job!”
3. Waiting until performance or behavior is substantially below expectations before acting on it.
4. Giving positive or negative feedback long after the event has occurred.
5. Not taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and reactions. “This comes straight from the boss.”
6. Giving feedback through e-mail messages, notes or over the telephone.
7. Giving negative feedback in public.
8. Criticizing performance without giving suggestions for improvement.
9. No follow-up afterwards.
10. Not having regularly scheduled performance review meetings.
Giving and receiving clear and constructive feedback requires courage and skill, and is essential to building good relationships with and motivating peak performance from your team.
Here are four tips for how to do right:
1. Be proactive. Nip issues in the bud and avoid the messy interpersonal tangles that result from neglected communication. Meeting with employees on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of annually, for example, conveys, “Your success is important to me, so I want to be accessible to you.”
2. Be specific. It’s never easy to provide negative feedback regarding someone’s work, but as a leader you can’t avoid it. Be as clear as possible when providing feedback (both positive and negative). Give specific examples that illustrate your points.
For example: Instead of saying, “Your attitude is bad” or “That didn’t work,” you might say something like, “When you miss deadlines, then cross your arms and look away when I discuss it with you, it gives me the impression that you don’t care about the quality of your work. I’d like to believe this isn’t true. Can you help me explain this better?”
3. Develop a progress plan. Be clear about the specific changes in behavior that you expect in a specific period of time, and follow up as scheduled.
4. Link employees’ performance to organizational goals. Reinforce the value of your employees’ contributions by giving specific examples of how their work and positive behaviors serve the organization and its customers.
If you are not doing these things, why would anyone else in your organization do them? Craft a performance appraisal process that encourages truth or consequences.
By Judith Lindenberger