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I know this would normally be a ‘Quote of the Week’ day, but I am mixing things up this week. ^_^…So in HR we often do a lot of management couching. And as an HR Manager supporting a pretty demographically diverse client group, for me to credibly advise leaders on how to tackle the myriad of different people challenges they face on a daily basis it’s critical that I have both a strong working and applied knowledge personally coaching individuals and teams.

Ergo, I am constantly soliciting feedback from my direct reports (whilst at the same time conducting a personal assessment of my own people management competencies) to understand how I can be a stronger team leader. Through this process, within the past year I’ve made significant gains where it concerns (i) helping my team develop new competencies to position them for advancement opportunities, (ii) removing non-value added work, and (iii) creating a culture of transparency and open communication.

It has been a long process, but lately I’ve (at times) started to feel like I know what I’m doing.

…Enter Work Rules! by Google’s CHRO Laszlo Bock, which helped me to recognize a gap in an area that I thought of myself as pretty good: Delivering actionable feedback. 

^Allow me to elaborate: It isn’t uncommon for me to regularly thank a member of my team for successfully completing ‘XYZ’ (or conversely provide constructive feedback when someone has an opportunity for growth). But often missing in my feedback has been why what I am commenting on is important. Allow me to illustrate: On any given day, I might say something like the below to a member of my team;

Me: Thanks for keeping me in the loop on how you managed that unemployment claim, and also for resolving it in such a timely manner. Keep it up!
Direct: Thanks for the kind words! No problem.

^When delivering positive feedback in this way, I’ve generally felt like I am doing a good job by (i) recognizing an employee for solid performance and (ii) clearly specifying what I’m recognizing the employee for. But in the above example the why this behavior adds value is a very important missing component. Because the why is what allows the employee to contextualize how his or her behavior added value… and as such give discretionary performance.

Case in point: I recently delivered similar feedback to the above, but added; “(Direct report), keeping me in the loop on the actions you take when managing these claims helps me because I occasionally get push-back from stakeholder XYZ; and by knowing how you handled the situation at the time, it allows me to make sure I’m on the same page with you here and to back you up when I get questions.”

^When I provided the additional “why” when delivering feedback, a really powerful thing happened. The employee followed up with me and said: “Thanks for letting me know why this helps you; I often wonder if I should get you involved with day to day transactional activities like this, and understanding how information like this helps you makes me confident about broaching it without feeling like I might be wasting your time.” 

^The direct’s comments then opened up a good dialogue wherein we talked about some of the other tactical items managed by the employee where she was unclear on what my level of involvement should be. And at the end of this dialogue, the employee left the meeting with much greater clarity of purpose on several previously undefined items whilst subsequently feeling much more empowered on others. Simply by contextualizing the otherwise very specific work performance feedback I was providing, I removed a lot of uncertainty for a member of my team and enabled her to be a more efficient performer.

…Sophomoric, I know; but I just wanted to share this ‘aha’ moment for anyone else that may be missing this simple value added component of feedback.

Best,

Rory

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