One of the most important activities that you can do as a leader is spend time engaging with your team and providing feedback and counsel on their work and performance. I personally see counseling/performance feedback as among the highest responsibilities of a leader because it is the means by which we develop our people and help them to be the best they can be. When we make time for our peoples’ development, our team and business will flourish as a result.
You might be saying to yourself, “I don’t have time to sit down and counsel my people on their performance.” There are several ways to make more time for it. And, frankly, you will have time for what you choose to make time for. Cut out as much BS as you can, so that you can focus on what’s important… your people and their development.
Here are some ways to make more time for giving your people feedback:
1. Do less. Make your people do more of the work. As a leader, supervision and providing feedback is your work. How much of what you do could be done by someone else on your team? If you are doing routine and minor work (but it is still necessary work), give it to someone on your team. How much of their work are you doing for them? If you are doing the work or cleaning up the work that someone on your team should be doing then make this a point of it during feedback with them, or assign someone to peer review their work before submission.
2. Schedule feedback to happen on a routine, repeating basis. If it is scheduled and planned between you and your employee, it stands as a person-to-person commitment that you will feel obligated to uphold. Set a reminder for yourself whether it’s with your calendar or phone reminder for the counseling time but also set a reminder to take time to prepare the feedback review. There are two approaches I have taken to do performance reviews/counseling:
A. Do all of them during the same period of time. Make doing performance counseling a focus for a week every month or every quarter.
B. Do one to two counselings per week and rotate through your people. I have come to prefer this method because it means I don’t have to drop everything I am doing for one week to focus on just doing feedback. Additionally it keeps performance feedback at the forefront of my mind each week.
3. Assign a counseling tree. There are only so many people you can accurately supervise at once. If you supervise upwards of 12 people, consider assigning middle managers below you to supervise and redirect your people as your team grows larger. Hold your middle managers accountable to counseling and developing the people below them. I specifically recommend doing this if you team does not already have built in structure. You can’t personally provide accurate and timely feedback to 70 people. If your team already has structure built in, all you have to do is ensure your middle managers are doing counseling on a regular basis. Their ability and commitment to developing their teams is now one more metric to critique and counsel them on during your performance review with your middle managers.
Here is the my simple method conducting informal counseling/feedback. Informal feedback is not their formal performance review and it should not be conducted in conjunction with discussions on pay. The intent of this counseling is to coach, redirect, and develop your employee. Check it out:
Areas of Excellence
I write out at least three behavior or actions that my employee is doing well and that I want them to continue doing. Specifically focus on behaviors and actions. Try to avoid counseling them on personal qualities. Different people have different understandings of personal qualities (loyalty can mean drastically different things to some people; work ethic can mean working longer than everyone else or using hours more efficiently to others). Actions are specific and measurable. I can change actions, but most of your people won’t believe they can change something about who they are… plus telling someone to change something about who they are can be insulting.
*For more info on how the words you use can impact your employees mindset, check out my previous post on “How to Build Intrinsic Motivation.”
Areas of Improvement
Again write out at least three behavior or actions that you want your employee to improve. What do you really need them to work on to increase their efficiency? Are they doing something that is negatively impacting the work environment? Address only the most important areas of improvement, if you give your employee too much to work on they likely won’t improve as much as if your simply gave them a limited scope of actions to improve on.
Write out the coaching/feedback, email a digital copy or give your employee a physical copy to review before you sit down and discuss the review. Once you have given them time to review the feedback, meet with your employee and talk to them about what you wrote. Elaborate on the content, if they don’t understand what you meant in your written version or want to know more about what you wrote.
I always make a point to ask if my employees agree with my assessment and if they believe it is fair. If your company does formal work performance reviews that impact promotion, there better not be anything negative on the work performance that the employee wasn’t already counseled on. Your people need time to work on improving their performance. You, as a leader, are responsible for making sure your people you where they need to improve. Their formal performance review (that impacts promotion) is the wrong time for them to find out that you were unsatisfied with their performance.
How often should each of your employees review performance feedback?
Depending on the type of feedback, you will conduct it on varying time intervals.
One the Spot
See something good or bad, say something on the spot. This is one of the best ways to coach your employees’ on their performance and help them improve.
Provide written informal coaching/feedback monthly to quarterly, depending on how often your organization does formal reviews. Additionally you may want to consider altering how often you do this based on the needs of your employees. Some people will want feedback more often than others.
Depending on your organization, this could be quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. Based on the timelines set by your organization, schedule and set the frequency of your informal coaching/feedback.
In summary, performance coaching and feedback is one of the best ways to develop your team. Your people deserve feedback and you owe it to them to provide timely and accurate feedback. I hope this post is helpful to you as a leader and to your team’s development.
I will share an example of an informal performance feedback in another post.
Know of a better way to provide feedback? Please share it with a comment.