Imagine a situation where the only time that your boss said anything to you was when he/she pointed out what you had done wrong. How motivated would you be? Would you look forward to seeing your boss again soon? Would you value the Feedback that you received? Too often in the workplace, this is exactly what happens.
Feedback needs to take place within the context of open communication. We need to have a relationship of open and positive (in the sense of caring and truthful) communication before team members are willing and able to take in and act upon the feedback that we provide. This communication needs to include both Performance conversations and personal conversations. And the communication needs to flow in both directions – as a leader, we need to be open, even seeking, feedback from team members.
The personal conversations are aimed at developing the relationship of trust and respect that defines leadership. These are conversations about background, interests, dreams and aspirations, and family. In these conversations we hope to learn about the person, not just about the worker.
The performance conversations that need to take place on a consistent basis should fall into six main categories, as follows:
- Career conversations – one of the responsibilities of a leader is to assist in the personal and career development of team members. Towards this end, there need to be conversations in the area of career that develop an understanding of previous experience, general interests, and career goals. From these conversations flows a specific definition of career growth plans and developmental opportunities.
- Goal-setting conversations – each team member needs to have a defined set of goals that include achievement goals, performance goals, and learning and development goals. Many organizations utilize a performance management system that calls for annual goal setting, but the timing should be flexible and should cover all of these areas.
- Check-in conversations – these are the conversations in which goals and progress can be reviewed but the most important objective is identifying and addressing the relevant challenges and opportunities. The purpose here is to raise awareness and solve problems midstream that might stand in the way of achieving goals or call for revising them.
- Performance review conversations – at some point there needs to be a conversation that addresses the level of achievement of goals. This is generally a part of an organization’s performance management system. If we have done an adequate job of check-ins, there should be no surprises come review time.
- Compensation conversations – this one is obvious and generally a part of most organization’s performance management system. It is best to have two separate conversations, one regarding a review of performance and a separate one regarding compensation.
- Feedback conversations – when we have established a pattern of open, caring conversations and built a relationship of trust and respect, feedback conversations are a natural part of the relationship. In another article we have described effective feedback in some detail, so here we provide a quick review. Feedback conversations should sometimes point out specific actions or behaviors that we value and encourage repeating and sometimes point out specific actions or behaviors that are not beneficial to the organization and should not be repeated. When we give corrective feedback, it is good practice to begin with a positive comment. Feedback always refers to specific action or behavior, our reaction to it, and the results to the organization from it.
All of these conversations can generally be accomplished in a few minutes each. It is better to build a pattern of frequent, focused, on-the-spot conversations than to hold a long meeting covering everything that should have been addressed long ago. With a larger organization, it is impossible to have these conversations with everyone; therefore, make it a practice with direct reports, and have some of these conversations with people at the next level while coaching your direct reports to adopt the practice. With a pattern of communication and a relationship of trust and respect, feedback becomes a natural part of the ongoing dialogue.
How well are you communicating with your team members? Are you developing the culture of open communications throughout your organization?