It’s that time of year again, my car is due its MOT. I sit there waiting for the phone to ring. All those moving parts, they can’t all be in perfect working order, can they? So it’s always great when I get the ‘all clear’. Not that it’s always that straightforward, because you’re then faced with the dreaded traffic light system: green for fine, amber for ‘will need attention soon’ and red obviously, for a fail. I hate getting an amber on a tyre. Is it a green-amber, or an amber-red? What if something happens on the motorway and I haven’t changed it? So I invariably get a new one.
I can understand why MOTs are mandatory, the roads are bad enough without a load of faulty cars on them. It does make you think though, how many other areas of our lives would benefit from a top to toe, annual health check? It would certainly be great for a business, and for a business owner – but where do you go to find a leadership MOT, to have the traffic light system run over your behaviours, to tell you what you’re doing well, what needs attention and what has to stop!
Where do you start?
Well I start with an overview of how well the business is doing because all the leadership that you’re giving is ultimately to that end. Your business dashboard will keep you on track with the headline business figures your leadership is ultimately achieving. How your key performance indicators are doing, things like sales, turnover, profit, customers, speed of service, etc those things by which you’ll judge success.
Then there are other facts that can inform you, for example, how many people resigned, did you let go, failed probation this year? How many people have you promoted? How many are borderline needing help?
A bit of self analysis doesn’t hurt either – getting off the hamster wheel once a month or once a quarter, taking the time to re-visit your vision and values, using the traffic light system and a healthy dose of honesty, to assess how you’re measuring up.
But a great way of checking out your effectiveness but also finding out what people need/want from you as a leader is to ask them. A simple 360 degree feedback system can be really effective. I’m not talking about bells and whistles and expense but a simple question. When you conduct performance reviews ask: ’What’s the most important thing you want from me as a leader?’
Make a note of the answer and at the next review ask how you did. It can be that simple. If you are that busy business owner or manager how great would it be to know the main thing that each of your team want from you and how much easier to focus on delivering it.
You can step that up to a second question: ‘What can I do to make your job better/easier?’
Add caveats if needs be, so if a pay rise is not on the cards let them know so they don’t waste their question. Then follow up at their next performance review - ‘How did I do?’
And then if you’re brave and you can encourage a climate of trust introduce a third question: ‘What do I do that stops you doing a better job or perhaps from enjoying your job more?’
And then follow up again at their performance review.
I have found this so useful over the years and some great ideas have come from it. It’s often little things as well that can be put right but which make a big difference to the individual. You know how sometimes a small niggly thing gets in your head and you can’t think straight?
It’s also great if you have team members who aren’t as vocal in team meetings; by getting them to voice their opinions one to one it starts to build their confidence to speak up in groups.
And as a leader, the follow up at review time really concentrates your mind to make time to do what you said!
The upshot is that people feel they’re being proactively listened to and their ideas acted on which is great for two-way communication, your relationships, team morale and ultimately productivity.
You may want to ask your customers too, ‘What are we doing well?’ and ‘What could we do better?’
I know this works if you stick with it and build trust. It may take time for people to realise that you’re not just ticking a box but that you’re serious about learning and improving. You need to also rein in your reactions and not go on the defensive which I know can sometimes be easier said than done.
You above all need to take action and then follow up at review time just as you would with tasks you’ve set your team members.
In my experience it’s definitely worth it.
Another way to get a really good feel for what your team are thinking and feeling about working with you is to get someone independent in to talk to them confidentially & one to one. We have done this a number of times for clients, and it’s amazing the really honest feedback and ideas for improvement you get from team members who open up to an outsider in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing with you. You get a real feel for what’s having an impact on them personally, or on the performance of the team, whether it’s a small niggle or a massive block. We then feedback the key themes & ideas anonymously to you as the business owner and help you to develop a plan for action.
Do one thing: Give yourself a leadership MOT, and build what you find into your personal improvement plan. Find out more about what we do here
Thanks for reading.
How to Foster a Culture of Improvement
‘Do this and your business will fly!’
Feedback! The key to improving performance. And yet so many people feel awkward about giving it or shy away from it altogether. So why do people find it so difficult? Perhaps you’re one of them. You may be the person who makes a joke of everything or someone who says, ‘Well, they know what I think from my body language.’
We all approach feedback differently. To those of us who have a British upbringing, feedback can often be seen as awkward, negative & confrontational. We see giving feedback as daunting. For me, the only reason to give feedback is to inspire improved performance. ‘Inspire’ is the key word. You want people to be walking away thinking, ‘I know how I’m going to do it better next time now,’ and wanting do just that.
So how do we deliver that? Let’s take a look at ways of giving feedback which will remove the angst. There are two methods. There’s informal feedback – the ongoing, day to day feedback, and then there is the formal performance management to back that up.
Find someone doing something good everyday!
Ongoing, day to day, when someone in your team is doing really well, you want to showcase and highlight that to the rest of the team. Have a philosophy of ‘trying to acknowledge someone doing something good, each day.’ Publicly acknowledge the event and explain why you’re pleased – perhaps it positively impacts a customer or the rest of the team and so forth. It’s all about positive reinforcement – you want more of this.
Spot learning opportunities everyday!
Don’t just walk past the bad stuff. Don’t allow it to happen without addressing it – nip it in the bud. Inaction does nothing to sort the problem and worse still, erodes the trust and respect of the other team members if they think you’ve let it slide. This, if you like, is ‘just in time’ coaching where you again, on a daily basis, seek out learning opportunities. In these circumstances just have a quiet word, there is no need for public humiliation. This time ask the person ‘why’ – ‘Why is this not acceptable?’ Give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves and see the effects of their behaviour. ‘When you said that to John, how do you think it made him feel?’ If they can work it out for themselves they will take it onboard more than if you simply lecture them. Make it a genuine learning experience.
The EEC Model
Within the McFreedom System we talk about the EEC model.
Continue or Change – ‘Continue’ if it’s something really good or ‘Change’ if it’s something not so good.
What’s caused me to comment on the way you’re working? Maybe the way you answer the phone, maybe the way you spoke to a client, maybe the way you completed a piece of work. What is the reason I’m talking to you?
What effect has it had on me, on the client, on the business, the team? Is it a good effect or not so good? Did you forget to smile when you answered the phone, making your voice sound sombre and moody? Did you complete this piece of work, but it wasn’t absolutely spot on in terms of accuracy? Did you get a great customer review?
and then either Continue
‘Thanks so much. You did a great job. Loved the way you’ve got absolutely every detail correct, keep going with that. Customer x was thrilled with that. Do more; continue.’
When it’s something that you want to correct, then you’re talking about how you want somebody to change their performance. What can they do differently? What do they need to do to be up to standard? Give people the chance to get things right next time.
When it comes to formal feedback, remember that nothing should ever be a surprise. All of the informal feedback that you’ve given feeds into your formal, sit down performance review. We recommend that you do formal performance reviews at the end of each quarter. That you make it routine. It’s a chance to sit down with your team member to talk to them about the great things they’re doing, and to inspire them to do even better.
Many people shy away from that whole idea of sitting down with each team member. Either that, or they only sit down with them when something bad has happened and they want to tell them off. No wonder their team members dread the call, it’s like when I was little, our dogs hated the car because the only time they got in it was to go to the vets! When you make delivering feedback routine, it becomes a more positive interaction between you and your team. It becomes a conversation, a discussion. ‘How can I do this better? How can I improve? I really want to improve, how can I do it?’
Encourage your people to keep their own development journals
This will become a useful tool for development because it will help to highlight where your team would like to go, how they want to improve, and what they need from you in order to achieve this.
Encourage them to jot down the things they did really well, their ‘Proud Page’.
To note when things didn’t go to plan – what were their learning points; if they had some training or coaching – what three things would they do differently next time as a result, their ‘Learning Page’.
Their ‘Aspirations Page’ – what challenges would they like, what training/development would help them get there.
The formal appraisal should be their story – you just need to listen. Then ask these question, ‘What do you need from me? What can I do differently that would help you?’ That is how to build trust.
People are more likely to ask for support if you’ve made this whole performance management system part of ‘the way we do things around here’. The way we do things round here is we give honest and open feedback, whether something is good, or needs to be improved. We are always honest and open; though honest doesn’t mean brutal! Make that part of your culture, and you have a real picture of continuous improvement. Everybody always looking to do that little bit better to make that marginal gain.
Do this and your business will fly.
Do two things:
1. Diarise those 90 day formal review slots now and make it routine.
2. Hand out development journals with a ‘How to’ for their use.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)