Performance Feedback: A Classic Problem
Have you ever had a situation like this. A manager comes to you to complain about one of their staff members. They say something like ‘he’s just not committed enough’ or ‘she’s lacking in confidence’ or ‘he’s really arrogant’? And then have they asked you to give them some help in giving performance feedback to that staff member – on being ‘uncommitted’ or ‘lacking confidence’ or ‘arrogance’? Not good is it?
Some time ago I was asked by Colin, the Head of a large secondary school in London, to give him some advice and guidance on dealing with a number of staff performance problems, and specifically how to give performance feedback . We talked about a number of issues and finally he began talking about a teacher he labelled ‘mind bogglingly boring’ Here’s how the conversation began;
C Now this staff member is driving me nuts
J What is she doing, or not doing, that is giving you a problem?
C It’s just that she’s such a boring teacher
J Give me an example?
C OK. I dropped into one of her lessons this week as part of my observation schedule. Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen such a set of bored pupils in my life. Half of them were asleep, a group of them were writing SOS messages on the window (in their own blood) and one kid was trying to make an escape tunnel, using a pencil
C Well no, but not far off. Now I’m guessing you’re going to say to me ‘Oh for crying out loud Colin, just sit her down and tell her she’s boring’
J Do you think that would work?
J Me neither
C Ha! I knew you wouldn’t be able to help me with this one
Putting aside Colin’s clear lack of confidence in my abilities (oh he of little faith), it’s not uncommon for managers to decide that some performance problems are just too difficult to address. These issues then get put in the ‘too hard tray’ and left, often to fester
Of course telling someone ‘you’re a boring teacher’ or ‘the pupils find you boring’ won’t work. Feedback on personality traits or characteristics is just too hard to understand and too hard to accept (I talk about why in the blog ‘Performance Feedback – How to give constructive criticism ‘). So what do you say to the manager who want’s to give performance feedback to the ‘boring’ (or ‘uncommitted’ or ‘arrogant’) employee? You could try something like this:
Performance Feedback to the ‘boring’ staff member
The first step is to articulate the behaviours – not your interpretation of the results of those behaviours (as Colin had)
The question I asked Colin was ‘What are you seeing the teacher doing, or not doing that has led you to label her as ‘boring’?
Here’s some of what he came up with;
She did not;
1. Make enough use of the available IT facilities – minimal use of the interactive whiteboard to show videos, on line resources etc
2. Use enough research / problem solving exercises
3. Explain the learning intention – what she expected the pupils to be able to do as a result of the lesson
4. Use enough group discussion techniques
Performance Feedback and Behaviours
By thinking ‘behaviours’ we can now move from the highly subjective and judgemental statement / thinking
‘My staff member is boring’
To the much more objective and non judgemental statement / thinking
‘My observation is that my staff member is not demonstrating the use of a number of tools and techniques designed to engage the pupils’
Which means we can move from feeling, as Colin did, that the situation was too difficult to address – who would be prepared to tell someone they were ‘boring’, or that ‘clients find your presentations boring’? – to seeing that when we talk behaviourally no performance issue is ‘out of bounds’
PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK SUMMARY
Being able to give performance feedback behaviourally is a key management skill. It’s all part of what I call positive criticism. Do the managers in your business need fast, effective training (that they can access today) in how to give performance feedback – and specifically criticism – that their staff member will find easy to understand, easy to accept and easy to apply? Why not take a look at my video ‘Motivating Your Staff to Improve Their Performance With Positive Criticism’. You can see all the details and find out how to watch a preview video HERE
Or take a look at my e-book HERE