Imagine for a minute that you decide to manage your kids like you manage your employees, providing a performance review once a year.
Let’s play out the script…
Well, Patrick, it’s been a year. For starters, I’d like to point out a couple things you’ve done well. First, you passed your exams and are on to the next grade, congratulations! Second, we love that you and your sister are getting along so well. It is great to see, and we can’t thank you enough for being so sweet to her.
But Patrick, let’s chat about some areas of growth I think you could focus on for this coming year. First, you’ve gotten in the habit of wearing boxers and a tee shirt to school. While I appreciate your sense of creativity, these clothes don’t reflect the family values we discussed 52 weeks ago. Additionally, I noticed you’re spending between 4-6 hours a day on social media. There is a lot of great content on Instagram, no doubt, but we need you to stay more focused on your homework and your jobs around the house. Which is another thing I wanted to mention…since it was your job to water the plants and feed the dog, I’m disappointed all our plants are dead, as well as the dog. This is certainly a growth opportunity for 2022.
To be fair, Patrick, some of this may be my fault as perhaps I didn’t make my expectations clear last year when you took on these responsibilities. I assumed you would know what to do. Plus, you know I don’t like to focus on the negative, so I didn’t say anything, I need to work on that…
An exaggeration no doubt, but you get my point. A performance review once a year isn’t effective. While your employees and teams are not like your children, everyone appreciates feedback, direction, support, guidance, and the knowledge that their leaders care enough to help. This does not mean you have to micromanage; what this means is that you’re there for them to make sure they succeed!
How do you do this? Accelerate your feedback loops. While you won’t treat your team like your kids, get in there and provide the feedback they need to succeed and speed up the loops so you can offer help and support earlier.
Let me explain. As I work with leaders and teams, one of the most common issues I hear is about employees not delivering on expectations. So, let’s break this down. There are three reasons someone didn’t deliver: 1) the leader didn’t set the right expectations, 2) the leader didn’t communicate the expectations in a way the employee could understand, or 3) the employee is incapable of meeting the expectations. While it may be hard to stomach, these are all leadership issues, not employee issues.
How can you solve for this?
First, build structures for getting feedback to your employees and teams, fast. When a team or employee starts working on a project, set – ahead of time – the cadence for how you’re going to review progress. This is not micromanaging because you’re not scrutinizing their work every step of the way; this is caring about their success by creating an opportunity to offer guidance and support. Tell them you’d like to revisit the project in a day or two so you can answer any questions they might have, and course-correct if needed.
Second, create a “Questioning Culture”. Many employees struggle to ask questions. Whether stifled by pride or intimidation, silence is a project killer. You need to build rapport with your team and get very clear with everyone that you are there to help, support, and coach, not to demand, command, and control. By building a Questioning Culture, you’re creating an atmosphere of curiosity and communication, where confusion gets addressed upfront and feedback loops are extensions of mutual respect.
And finally, if you have structures in place, and you’ve built the right culture and the employee or team still does not meet expectations, it’s on you to make the personnel changes necessary to get the job done right. Own the fact that you put the wrong people in the role and then fix it. Sometimes that means helping employees acquire the skills needed for the role. Other times that means helping employees find new roles in your organization. And yet other times, you may just need to let an employee go, recognizing they won’t succeed in your organization.
If you’re a parent and you’re reading this, odds are you care so deeply about your kids that you would do anything to help correct a wayward course, encourage the right behavior, support them when they need help, and just be there in their times of need. Why should this be different for your team. Build feedback loops into how you operate and the more you do, the less you’ll need them as the collective trust expands and the communication and performance improves.