There has been a lot of buzz about the demand for feedback in the younger generation of today’s workforce. I find this amusing. I have worked with many generations and have watched people of all ages thrive in an environment that has positive, strengths-focused, on-going feedback.
I learned how to give feedback by watching my father on countless occasions. It was the weekly go-to “family outing” for us growing up. He would say “Let’s go get ice cream!” and we would spend the next two hours sitting in our car with sticky ice cream fingers, while dad, general manager of a gas and oil company, observed his employees serving customers at a gas station across the street.
At the end of the evening, we would walk across the street with him to wash our hands while he talked with the employees. Dad knew that if he told them what to do, they would blame him if things didn’t go well. So, he gave feedback using the following principles:
The ELF Principle™. What you Expect you Look for, what you look for you Find. Dad expected that his employees wanted to do their job well, so he focused on looking for what the employee was doing right. This awareness of positive performance helped him validate and build on the employee’s successes, rather than browbeating the employee for “failures”. Turns out that he was right. Research shows that we grow most when we focus on what we’re doing right, not on what we’re doing wrong.
Conscious curiosity. Armed with both positive behaviors and opportunities for growth, dad was able to hold a conversation that involved talking with the employee rather than at the employee. He focused on only asking open-ended questions until he had the full picture. What was working well? Where were they feeling most successful? What changes would make the business better? Where were they struggling? What would help them do their job better? Most often, dad never had to bring up the opportunities for growth (the “negatives”) himself, because his questions invited the employee to talk about them in a neutral atmosphere. On the rare occasions when something needed to be discussed that the employee didn’t bring up, dad would lead with, “Tell me about…”
Relationship matters. Dad knew that no problem or behavior would be “fixed” after he walked away unless he made sure that the relationship with his employee was more important than the problem. He recognized that employees wanted to know he cared about them as a person. That inspired them to work harder, and improve performance. He treated employees with respect, encouragement, and kindness. He was a great listener. Don’t get me wrong…he was definitely a taskmaster when it came to accountability. He mastered the art of talking through performance issues so that consequences were clear, all the while keeping the relationship intact.
Timely tuning. Feedback, done regularly, gives employees the opportunity to adjust their course, correct behaviors, and learn processes early on before actions or behaviors get ingrained. Dad knew that unless employees were engaged in the process of feedback, nothing much would be changed.
It turns out that those regular weekly family ice cream outings were great lessons for us kids. Dad taught us, by example, that it’s essential to observe behaviors, build on strengths, and help employees hone their skills so that they can produce the outstanding work and customer service that your company stands for.
Do you feel like you just keep talking – until you’re blue in the face – with no positive results? Do you want a more positive, engaged, and productive workforce? Contact Joy today. She can help you understand the roadblocks in your team’s communication and interactions and get you on the path to increased success!