Bosses: Give Frequent and Usable Feedback

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Most of the managers I’ve known have no problem talking to team members about performance as long as performance is good. That changes when performance is not so good.

Then they come up with all sorts of reasons not to. Here some of the them

“I don’t want to micromanage.”
“They know what they’re doing. I really don’t need to talk to them.”
“They’re experienced people, they don’t need supervision.”
“If they don’t know that they’re doing poorly, then they shouldn’t be in that job.”
“I don’t want to damage their confidence.”
“I believe you should hire good people and then leave them alone.”

There’s not a single good reason on that list. Your job is to improve the performance of your team and your team members. If you’ve got someone who’s not performing, your challenge is to help them improve. That includes giving feedback, even when that’s hard for you to do.

You can make it easier by doing a few simple things.

Start by showing up a lot. If you’re managing a virtual team, make that “touching base” a lot. That sets you up to have frequent conversations with your team members.

When you have frequent conversations with your team members, they expect you to talk to them. Then conversations are just a routine part of everyday work life. But if you only show up occasionally, your team members will expect a conversation with you to be a) about their performance and b) not a happy experience.

When you have frequent conversations with your team members, you’re more likely to catch them doing good things. Mention it. You’re more likely to catch them working hard. Thank them.

When you have frequent conversations with your team members, you also catch problems early. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier it is likely to be to solve. I call that the Dinosaur Principle.

Problems are like dinosaurs. They’re easy to kill when they’re small. But if you let them grow up they can eat you.

Conversations and feedback should be frequent. Make the feedback usable, too.

This just makes sense. If the feedback isn’t helpful, why waste everyone’s time giving it. Take the time and attention to do it right.

Include coaching to help team members improve performance. Include consequences so the team member knows what will happen if performance improves and what will happen if it doesn’t.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Giving feedback is one of the most important parts of your job. Feedback is only effective if it’s frequent and helpful.

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