Feedback is necessary for a productive team. Supporting high performers with acknowledgement of their good work will let employees know they are recognized and valued. But when an employee is underperforming or engaged in unproductive behaviour, a leader will need to have a difficult conversation with that employee. Here are some tips that will help make that encounter easier and more likely to lead to improved results.
1. Timeliness is important.
Arrange a meeting promptly. If too much time lapses between the behaviour and the feedback, it will seem like unnecessary, arbitrary criticism.
2. Remain calm.
Don’t give feedback in an agitated state. Wait until any anger has passed and the meeting can be conducted peacefully. You are not looking for conflict.
3. Speak privately.
An employee will process feedback best when it is delivered in a one-to-one setting.
4. Be assertive.
Express yourself forcefully without being accusatory. Using the pronoun “I” instead of “you” will help prevent the employee from becoming defensive. Maintain eye contact and speak clearly.
5. Be specific.
Avoid using dire words like “never” or “always”. Be factual and don’t leave out important details. When a person gets the whole story, it is easier for them to understand the situation from other points of view.
6. Find a mutually acceptable way forward.
You are looking for cooperation, not blind obedience. Get the employee’s input when discussing possible solutions.
7. Listen to the employee’s side of the story.
There may be a reason for the behaviour that involves a different problem that needs to be known and addressed.
8. Focus on areas of agreement.
Not all problems can be solved in one meeting. Look for points of mutual understanding and compromise, even small things.
9. Follow up.
Schedule a meeting later to discuss progress and what further action may be needed to address any lingering issues. Show you care.
This material has been drawn in part from Schulich ExecEd’s upcoming program Certificate in Coaching Skills for Managers & Directors (Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, 2018), which allows you to learn the coaching skills used to motivate, inspire, and engage your employees to achieve performance levels not previously thought possible.