Never stop learning because life never stops teaching

At a recent Performance Management training session a delegate shared with me feedback they had recently received from their manager during their appraisal which had left them feeling worthless;

  • “Why don’t you just do it the way I tell you to do it?”
  • “You are useless at this task”
  • “You are really unenthusiastic compared to the rest of the team”
  • “Beth is absolutely brilliant at this compared to you”

I asked the delegate if they felt this was a fair assessment of their performance over the last 12 months. Predictably it was not. Reflecting back over the course of the year the delegate had been a reliable and hardworking high achiever. Despite ten years’ service with an unblemished record, a recent change in personal circumstances had led to three instances of lateness which their manager had failed to deal with constructively.  The manager’s failure to sympathetically support their employee subsequently led to a drop in the employee’s enthusiasm and engagement, and unfortunately this was to be the focus of the annual performance review meeting.

Too often an annual review meeting is tainted by a tendency to focus on recent events. If you are only meeting with your team once a year to review their performance make sure it is a true reflection of the whole year and don’t get stuck on one area. This is your opportunity as a manager to BOOST engagement and performance. As you prepare for the appraisal think about how you can achieve this and consider using the BOOST model when delivering feedback;

Balanced – Include both positive and constructive points, don’t just focus on one

Observed – Only give examples of what you have seen the person say or do

Objective- Feedback should be factual and based on behaviours or actions, not an attack on someone’s personality.

Specific – Always use specific examples to help the individual to relate

Timely – Feedback should be given as close to the event as possible to support accuracy and impact. Don’t save it up until the next meeting.

Outside of the training session we discussed how the delegate was going to deliver feedback to their manager following the appraisal. Although this initially felt like an uncomfortable prospect, we talked through and began to script how the conversation could be handled using the AID (action, impact, development) model of feedback. Focusing on the emotional impact, how the delegate felt during and after the appraisal, was the key here. Together we found the right words to share how despondent, demoralised and disappointed the delegate felt and how they would want their appraisal to flow in the future.

Over the weekend I received an email from the same delegate. They informed me that last week they had summoned the courage to have a conversation with their manager and although they were nervous the discussion had gone well. The manager was horrified to hear how they had made the delegate feel and had reflected that perhaps they had focused too much on recent events. Together they have scheduled another performance review meeting early in the new financial year and have agreed to regular one to one meetings outside of the annual review where matters such as absence, attendance and productivity can be discussed in a timely manner. The manager welcomed the feedback and thanked the delegate for taking the time to talk to share their thoughts and feelings.

I believe that learning how to receive and handle feedback begins with learning how to deliver it. Not all managers learn their skills through qualifications, accreditation or through structured training. Many managers learn on the job. No matter where your knowledge comes from or where skills are learnt, feedback is critical. One of my favorite quotes is ‘Never stop learning because life never stops teaching’. Feedback comes from all angles but it’s what you do with it that counts. As a manager if you are not willing to receive and reflect on feedback from your team, perhaps you should question what motivates you to be a manager.

Caroline Day

March 2017

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