Why You Can’t Skimp On Radically Candid Performance Development Conversations
Humble: Don’t be arrogant. Be curious. Deliver your feedback firmly and with supporting rationale, but be open to push-back. Listen with true intent to understand so that you get a full command of both perspectives before agreeing or disagreeing.
Helpful: You don’t have to have all the answers. Simply exposing your intent to be helpful offers clarity to the other person about your intentions. Most people will want to hear whatever it is you’re going to say.
Immediate: Feedback has a short half life. When you give feedback while the details are all fresh in your mind, you are able to be much more specific. You also give the person a better chance to improve immediately.
In person: The clarity of your feedback gets measured not at your mouth, but at the other person’s ear. The majority of communication is non-verbal, and you won’t really know if the other person understood what you were saying if you can’t see the reaction. When talking in person, you can make adjustments based on their body language and emotions. If you work with a remote team, opt for a video call so you can still communicate face to face.
Private criticism / Public praise: A good rule of thumb for feedback is praise in public, criticize in private. Public criticism tends to trigger a defensive reaction and make it much harder for a person to accept they’ve made a mistake and learn from it. Public praise tends to make the recipient feel great, and it encourages others to emulate whatever they did that was great.
Not about Personality: Make your feedback about the work the person has done, rather than about the person. “I think that’s wrong” is more effective than “You’re wrong.” And “That was a great presentation because X, Y, Z” is more beneficial than “You’re great at presentations!”
By balancing the two, you can create a culture where people can grow in their careers or discover that perhaps the role they’re in isn’t a great fit for them. But if you fail to have regular development conversations, someone might get labeled as a B player when they’re simply just not suited for the position.
Everyone can be excellent at something. That’s very different from saying anyone can be good at anything—definitely not true. Sadly, lots of people never find work they are truly excellent at because they stay in the wrong job too long.
Bosses keep this kind of employee on for several reasons: they’re not sure they can find someone better; it takes time and effort to train new people; and they like the person and feel it would be unfair to encourage them to find a job they are better suited for.
This lack of courage and energy leads to a tremendous loss of human potential—to lives of quiet desperation. Assuming that people who are not thriving are therefore mediocre and can’t do any better is both unjust and unkind. Allowing them to continue down that path may be the worst case of Ruinous Empathy that managers regularly display and a great contribution to wasted possibility. It’s what I did with Bob.
The truth is that everyone can be exceptional somewhere and it is a boss’s job to help them find that role. But you can’t do this if you skip performance development conversations. The bottom line? You’re going to have to get HIP in order to create a talent-retaining culture where people actually like coming to work.