Employees want to know how they are doing and what future opportunities they have with their company. If they don’t hear it from you, they will hear from a headhunter. Employers are increasingly moving toward a coaching mentality to support and develop their workforce. But change seems slow and hard.
Employers must shift their thinking from measuring performance to improving performance. Performance appraisals are submitted late, if at all without prompting because the process has historically been to criticize and compare. No matter what you call it, it comes out telling someone they are not good enough. No one likes to give it, and no one likes to receive it.
Being shamed does not result in improved performance. It results in denial, blame, and resignation (pun intended). Positive feedback sends a message of superiority, too. There is a management feedback formula to give five positives for every one negative to have the negative message heard. It is past time to throw out these outdated management techniques.
Gallup, a company focused on employee engagement, speaks of having meaningful feedback. A recent study showed this feedback supports agility, inspires excellence, and retains talent. Gallup describes meaningful feedback as frequent, a few times a week; focused, something in one’s control; and future-oriented, removing roadblocks for tomorrow.
This is the century of allyship, identifying mutual goals and working together to move forward. Just don’t switch out the term supervisor for coach or ally. Teach supervisors coaching skills. It starts with being an ally. You care about and have confidence in the person. You are committed to their growth, development, and achievement. Steps outlined in an HBR article, Feedback Isn’t Enough to Help Your Employees Grow, included:
Asking permission shifts the top-down relationship to side-by-side. Once this is established, determine what their desired outcome is, again putting yourself in a position to support, not direct. As early as 1954, Peter Drucker encouraged leaders to push decision-making down through the organization. Drucker, who coined the term “knowledge workers,” said, “Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.”
This can work to humanize a situation of an employee who is not achieving their expectations. Have the employee establish their desired outcome. The coach can help clarify the outcome through a conversation, and then tie that outcome to an organizational need. Understanding its shared importance draws the two people together. Rather than addressing the obstacle, the coach can encourage the person to see the obstacle as an opportunity to address the bigger issue.
Once motivated by the future-focused bigger outcome, use the energy to produce a number of strategies. Have the employee select a strategy that feels easy and actionable. Discuss the plan to ensure its success. Then follow-up to celebrate and calibrate, not as supervisor-subordinate, but as people working together to achieve something bigger.