Years ago I taught Leadership Training using the work of Zenger Miller. I loved their focus on “the situation, not the person.” In other words, what was the problem to be solved? My favorite module was called Constructive Feedback. The module started by sharing a story about a compass. It suggested that as a hiker walking through dense wood, intent on reaching your destination quickly and efficiently, you would automatically pull out your compass and check it every few minutes. This would secure success. You wouldn’t, the module shared, wait 8 hours, and then wonder where you were! Instead, you wanted to be able to make small incremental adjustments as you walked along.
From there, they shared that the same was true for successful employee performance. As a leader, you would be checking performance/engagement/opportunity on a frequent basis. This would allow you to have a simple and straightforward constructive feedback discussion – because the need for change was small and still easy to resolve.
Today, along with frequent checking in and providing constructive feedback as required, I would also remind folks as clearly as I could have the destination and the impact of that individual’s personal contribution. We all want to be seen and valued.
In the conversation, you tell what you observed, what you require, listen to the employee’s concerns, respond, and move to confidence building. It’s important to note that Zenger Miller said that what you observed and needed should take less than 3 minutes of the conversation. (This time frame reminds us that we are responding quickly to a need for a small course correction!)
Thinking about the confidence building part of the conversation, I remember a boss once asking me if I talked about work at home. Of course, I did. And then he asked what kinds of things did I talk about? And kindly, before I thought of a great answer, he laughed and told me to remember that all my employees were just like me. Before speaking, I should think about my employee’s dinner conversation. What story did I want them to share?
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