Over the years, I have been on both ends of various approaches for delivering feedback from managers or leaders of teams. Many of these styles don’t foster the intended results, much to the frustration of those delivering the feedback. Despite their goal being to paint a picture for their employees as clear as the one in their head, it often leads their team down a path of confusion.
One of the most common approaches these leaders employ is what I refer to as the “psychic” approach to improving performance. This method starts with the manager looking at certain results, and without any other information, they presume to understand what happened, can seemingly predict the future, and rush in shouting orders on how to fix the problem.
I have a lot of issues with this approach.
Firstly, it is an ego-driven process. The manager is positioned as smarter than everyone else on the team. The mantra is: "Be quiet, do what I say, and all will be well." The team doesn’t ask questions, nods their heads and gets moving–or else.
Secondly, the team was not properly prepared. These “blast” sessions could happen in front of customers or in many cases it happens in the daily meeting where everyone is herded into a room to receive this feedback. They are expected somehow to apply the feedback as the manager has imagined and off the team goes, more confused but unwilling to ask questions from their manager because of his or her ultimate conviction.
Lastly (and most importantly), some individuals are not sure if the feedback applies to them or not. In many cases the individuals who need to apply this feedback think the manager must be speaking about someone else. They leave thinking they are doing a good job and go repeat the previous behavior.
The unfortunate thing is in many instances, this experience will recur each month. The results will never improve because the manager was only willing to tell the team what to do without coaching them to the desired results.
With that in mind, how should a manager deliver feedback that will drive their team to action?
Define specific results
In order to follow up properly, you need to have specific performance goals in mind that everyone understands. You have to be so clear about what you expect so that there is no miscommunication. Here are two examples.
- Bad: I need you to increase sales this month.
- Good: I need you to increase sales by 10 units this month.
If you are not clear, what you think is an acceptable increase can be different from your employee’s perspective. In the case of the good example, we all know what 10 units are.
Agree to a deadline
Once again, lack of specificity can cause conflict. In many cases, myself included, leaders have given deadlines such as “I need it on Friday.” You may need it for a meeting at 10 a.m., but the team thinks end of day is fine. Having a specific deadline allows everyone remains on the same page.
Inspect results and speak in terms of behavior
Many leaders would stop at hitting the goals they laid out. Communicating with your team after they were able to successfully carry out your vision is just as important, if not more important than communicating with them before it. By reviewing their actions with them, they can repeat the behavior in the future to get the same results. Ask them what they did differently in terms of their specific behavior to help them identify the things to do each month that will set them up for success.
Managers are usually happy to spend time working with teams when they aren’t able to hit the laid-out goals, but remember to take emotion out of the equation. In most cases, employees are trying their hardest to follow your blueprint, so as leaders we need to understand what behavior they exhibited to end up where they did.
By drilling into behavior, you will find that one or two steps were missed or done improperly, and that affected results. It allows you to target your training to improve performance, clear up any issues and then make it easier to hold the team accountable
Once you have identified behaviors for success, you need to schedule a time to review results and progress. It’s important to continuously review you and your employees’ actions. Your team will get used to having their work reviewed, and this will result in better overall performance.
Following these three simple steps will alleviate confusion for both the leader and the team as they move towards delivering the expected results. Remember, teams need clarity in order to execute success.
Glenn Pasch is the CEO of PCG Digital, an Inc. 5000 agency that specializes in helping businesses generate qualified shoppers and more sales opportunities. As an expert in digital marketing, he’s been featured in CBT News, Dealer Marketing Magazine, Auto Success, and Automotive News. He’s the co-author of two books: "Selling Cars in the Digital Age" and "The Power of Connected Marketing." He was an adjunct professor at Northwood University and has spoken at NADA, Digital Dealer, NIADA, and The World Shopper Conference, among others. His firm has worked with all types of companies from single-point dealerships up to giants like GM, Lithia, Berkshire Hathaway, AutoCanada, and Subaru.