Align Your Team in 2011 - Part 2

December 15, 2010 -- Sal Silvester

The Leadership Story

It had been almost three weeks since their last one-on-one, but having returned from India and with Angela's sudden departure, Steve was anxious to get the process started again. He reflected on how easy it was for pressing matters to get in the way of focusing on important things like coaching his people.

Ben was rushed and a bit frustrated that he had to attend this one on one. Especially today, it seemed there were so many deadlines waiting on his attention.

"Hey Ben, come on in," Steve greeted him in his usual enthusiastic manner.

"Thanks."

"What happened with Angela?" Steve asked.
 
"Well, her notice took me a bit by surprise, but I think she really struggled to fit in
here."

"Ben, Angela left because she was ticked-off. She wasn't unprofessional, but she
was pretty resentful. It sounded like the discipline process you put her through
was the first time she heard your feedback."

"I have been asking her for the same thing for three months. Nothing changed."

"Were you giving her feedback along the way?"
 
"Not directly, but you'd think she would have picked up on my comments about
the bug issues." 

Steve stood up, went over to his whiteboard and pointed to "Align Your Team"
words written at the 9:00 position. Then he said, "We talked about alignment the
last two times we met, but the glue that keeps people aligned throughout the year
is feedback."
 - - - - 

The Model

Feedback is often one of the hardest things for people to do in the workplace. But, it is one of the most important roles of a leader. As you begin preparing for 2011, what is your feedback plan?

I have found that people generally want feedback. They want to know what they are doing well and where they can improve. When feedback is provided in the spirit of helping people elevate their performance, it is much more likely to be accepted in a positive manner.

Feedback is the glue that holds alignment together. Regardless of the format, feedback should encompass the following characteristics.

  • It should be delivered in a timely fashion so a team member can correlate a specific behavior with what went well or what needs to change.
  • Feedback should be specific and behavioral based. This gives the team member clarity about what to keep doing or what to change.
  • True leaders own their feedback. If you find yourself sharing feedback with a team member and prefacing it with “we,” it is likely you are hiding behind the cover of others instead of taking ownership for it.

Here are three simple and highly effective formats for providing feedback:

The “ah-ha” moment: This is the random, un-scheduled opportunity for you to provide feedback to your team members – both positive and constructive. When you see a behavior you want to see repeated, give positive feedback. When you see a behavior you don’t want to see repeated, provide constructive feedback.

Monthly One-on-One Meetings: Similar to what Steve did in our story, every leader should conduct a one-on-one meeting with each of his direct reports at least once a month. This is an opportunity to open the lines of communication, understand what your team member needs from you to be most effective and to provide support and feedback. Keep the sessions informal and have your team member establish the agenda for each session ahead of time. Finally, make sure these are scheduled. What gets scheduled gets done; what doesn’t get scheduled all too often gets postponed indefinitely.

Quarterly Goal Reviews: In most organizations goals are rarely looked at during the year, which is the primary reason why actions are rarely aligned and the performance management system broken. This is your opportunity to shine as a leader and make a significant impact on your people and to the organization. At least once a quarter, replace one of your regularly scheduled monthly one-on-ones with a slightly more formal goal review. In addition to the topics covered in your monthly one-on-one, review your team member’s performance goals, ask him for input on how he is performing relative to the goals, provide your positive and constructive input, make adjustments to the goals as needed, and then agree on a date to review any plans for improvement.

Annual Performance Review: If feedback is provided regularly throughout the year during “ah-ha” moments, monthly one-on-one meetings, and quarterly goal reviews, the annual review should simply be a summary of a team member’s performance. Let me state that more directly. DO NOT SURPRISE AN EMPLOYEE AT AN ANNUAL REVIEW WITH FEEDBACK THEY HAVEN’T RECEIVED DURING THE PERFORMANCE YEAR. There are no exceptions to this rule.

The key to making feedback work is to create a system similiar to what's outlined in this article. You'll not only find that it's an easier process than you may have thought, but, more importantly, it will generate commitment from your team members.

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