Talking to team members about performance

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Here’s part of a question that came in via email from a young manager.

“I wish to develop the leadership quality whereby I am able to bring out the mistakes and behavioral problems of any one without being verbally attacked.”

My first reaction was that the writer might be in the wrong job. He doesn’t seem comfortable with talking to people about their performance and behavior. But that’s part of the manager’s job.

If you can’t come to terms with the anxiety and make those supervisory conversations part of your routine every day, management may be the wrong kind of work for you. Before you decide that, though, here are some ways to do that part of the job better.

Show up a lot. Otherwise when you show up it’s an event.

Look for reasons to praise, not just reasons to correct the people who work for you. Otherwise every time you show up, they know something unpleasant will happen.

Catch problems while they’re small. Like dinosaurs, problems are easier to kill that way. Otherwise they grow and eat you.

Describe the performance or behavior you want to change in non-judgmental language. That’s what the conversation will be about. Leave the adjectives at home.

Describe what happens because of the behavior or performance. Use both logical and emotional language. That’s why it’s worth discussing.

Then be quiet. Wait for your team member to talk, no matter how long it takes.  It could be you have your facts wrong.

Once your team member responds, you have the basis for a conversation. Most often it will be civil conversation because you’ve established the tone.

Remember the Three W Rule: What, Why, Wait.

Have you had situations like this one? Do you have any suggestions for the person who sent the question?

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