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I have several reports who struggle to perform to my expectations. I try to balance positive feedback with constructive, but with several reports, I struggle to find positive feedback (I'm really trying) and feel that I'm constantly criticizing them with my feedback during 1:1's. One report in particular starting to break down emotionally during sharing of constructive feedback. Any advice out there? Thanks.

MikeK's picture

I'd say you really need to look more at progress towards improvement then instead of looking too far at some future expectation that you want the person to get to. Coaching requires a LOT of tiny steps. If any progress was made, you have something to provide positive reinforcement with.

You can even recognize the fact that the person is emotionally attached to your feedback. If they feel it, you should too and try to look at smaller steps. They obviously care, and that is a GREAT thing, use it to try to motivate them to keep working at SOME improvements (no matter how small). They are obviously well aware of the poor performance which you don't need to bring up in any feedback over and over.

I recently had this with a direct over the last few months and we talked a lot about his progress and how things were improving. I almost only gave positive feedback to help coach and encourage improvements and better performance and I asked the employee to rate themselves again the expectation. They were well aware of still being below the desired level and I didn't have to keep referring to it.

Long story short, they didn't end up reaching an acceptable level and were more suited in a different department so moved on. Keep good documents, ensure the expectation is well known so if you need it in the future you are prepared for the worse. Just don't make your direct go through the worse in getting there, however things end up.

Nigel's picture

You've been having 1:1s with this person for three months. They got emotional once which suggests they are at least engaged in the process. I would suggest the following:

First, realize there is always some behavior you can observe that can be the subject of affirming feedback. For example, "Julie, can I share something with you. When you always come to our 1:1 meetings on time and you use your 10 minutes to share things with me, here's what happens: You are proving to me that you are an effective communicator. I begin to feel you really care about getting even better at your job. And that you care about the process we are engaged in together. You make me feel good about the progress we've made. Thanks for being involved. I appreciate it."

Second, everyone I started these 1:1s and the feedback model with recoiled at first. Some more than others. (Some a LOT more than others). They are conditioned to assume that because you are giving feedback and having 1:1s they are in trouble. Tackle it head on. Tell them that the 1:1 is nothing more and nothing less than a guaranteed weekly opportunity to communicate. Tell them that when you give affirming or suggestive feedback it does not mean they are in trouble. It's nothing more and nothing less than a minor course correction. Tell them that you TRULY care about helping them get even better at their job.