Declare Your Independence

If you want your team to perform a certain way, you’re going to have to let them know what that way looks like. And, you’re going to have to reinforce it over time – through regular meetings, encouragement, and occasionally even corrections or warnings. And if you do this well, you will begin to notice fewer interruptions, less corrections and more free time for you as the leader.
Communicating with your employees sounds simple enough, but it’s something that a lot of ineffective leaders struggle with. Many don’t know when they should be providing feedback, or how to do so in a constructive way. In fact, I regularly meet with managers who are doing things that cause them to get the opposite results from what they were hoping to get.
Because this is so crucial to your success as a manager or business owner, and the success of your team as a unit, this chapter is devoted to the topic of providing the right kinds of input to the men and women you supervise.
What Does Good Feedback Look Like?
In my mind, there are four things that separate great feedback from idle chatter: the communication you have with your team should be:
  1. Immediate (or at least current)
  2. Actionable
  3. Continuous
  4. Fair.
And……you can’t pick and choose from the list. Each of these pieces is crucial.
When it comes to giving feedback immediately, human psychology and common sense both factor in. Telling someone they’ve done a great job six months after the fact doesn’t do much for them. They probably won’t remember what you’re talking about, and it won’t seem all that sincere on your part. If what you have to say to an employee is important, you should deliver the news immediately, or at least as soon as possible.
In the same way, lots of supervisors like to give out feedback that isn’t specific or actionable. They may breeze through the office, telling a member of their team “great job!” or “you really need to pick it up!”.   Doing so without ever indicating why that’s the case, or which aspects of the employee’s performance were positive or negative, will not have the effect you really want. Cheerleading is nice, but it’s not instructive; and griping might feel good to you, but it isn’t going to help anyone on your team to give you more or less of what you’re hoping for from them.
Feedback has to be continuous because that’s the only way to get consistent performance from your staff. It’s also the only way to ensure they will stay on-task and pointed in the right direction if priorities change. And remember that continuous feedback doesn’t necessarily have to take place in formal meetings. It can be as simple as a few words shared over coffee, or during a lunch away from the office. What matters is that you convey the right messages at the right time. If your team knows what you need from them, and how you assess the work they are giving you, then it doesn’t really matter where those conversations take place.
And finally, above all else, feedback has to be fair. You can’t expect what you didn’t ask for, and you can’t set vastly different standards for different employees. I’ve had the pleasure of giving good news and great performance reviews over my years as a manager. I also have had to give bad news and poor performance reviews many times through my career as well. The one common theme in each of these scenarios was there were no surprises at that point in time. And usually, there wasn’t a problem by the time we got to the formal review process. That’s because I’ve always tried to go out of my way to be fair and transparent. People will accept the truth, even if it’s ugly, when they know you’re being genuine. If you can give both criticism and encouragement when they are due, your team will respond to both of them more effectively.