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How to Tell Your Team to Improve – Without Any Tears!

Written by Angela Atkins on October 9th, 2015.      0 comments

Sometimes someone in your team will make a mistake, may not be doing part of their job as well as they should (e.g. making mistakes with bookings or being late for work) or not be displaying the behaviours that you expect (e.g. how they are dealing with customers or working in team).
The problem is, when you give people direct feedback about this – they can often get upset, defensive or even angry. And then they don’t improve – they just sulk or get in a mood.
I made my first employee cry
When I first started managing a team, I kept giving feedback to my employee about the mistakes she was making and she ended up in tears. As well as being too direct, I’d also not recognised all the positive things she was getting right. It was a huge learning for me and something I’m not proud of – but it’s never happened again.

So how do you avoid tears?
The easiest way is to not tell people directly that they need to improve – but raise it as a conversation. This works particularly well in New Zealand where we’re not comfortable being confrontational or direct.

Here are 3 of the methods that I outline in my book Management Bites. Give them a go and what you may find is that there are not just no tears, but that you can have a good conversation about what’s happening and then your employee will be really positive about improving!

How to Handle Staff Blog SpaBeauty
“It Concerns Me”  

With this method, instead of telling someone ‘this treatment wasn't performed well" you turn it around and make it about your concern instead. ‘I’m concerned about the treatment outcome". Or instead of ‘You didn’t deal with that customer query very well’ you say ‘I’m concerned that there are a few bookings that weren’t right. I’m worried customers aren’t having the usual great experience we give them. Can I have a chat about your ideas to fix this?’

This makes it about you being concerned, NOT the employee doing it wrong – so they are more open to ask what you are concerned about and listen to your feedback.
Appreciative Inquiry:

The concept of appreciative inquiry is that instead of focusing on what the employee did wrong, you focus on what the situation would have looked like if there was a positive outcome. For example instead of saying “You were very rude with that customer” you ask “Let’s talk about what would have happened to have that customer hang up the phone feeling really happy about our company”. The focus is on what could have happened - for them to keep this in mind for the next time the situation comes up.
Turn It Around:

The next method is to turn it around. Instead of you telling the employee what they did wrong, you ask them to review how it went and what they think they did well and could have improved. Asking them to review it themselves and come up with a way to fix an issue can make the employee far more motivated to fix it. You may have to probe and ask specifics like ‘how well did you think the treatment was performed?’ rather than just ‘what did you think of the treatment?’ or ‘how happy do you think that customer was with her experience here? Is there anything we could have improved?’
Feed forward suggestions:

In this method instead of giving feedback – which involves looking backwards and there may not be anything the person can do about what is in the past, feed forward is thinking about what you can do differently in the future – learning from the past but focusing on what is in front.

For example, when you are climbing a mountain (as you do!), you can look back on the distance that you’ve come and mistakes you’ve made, but more importantly you need to think about what you are going to do in the distance you still have to go to get to the top! Feed-forward suggestions should be behavioural based and focus on things the employee could try in the future to achieve what is needed.

Spa Management Blog SpaBeauty NZ
So next time one of your team makes a mistake or doesn’t do particularly well at a task or outcome – be indirect with them. Get a discussion going instead of giving feedback and you might just find that suddenly the problem isn’t there anymore.
 This article was supplied by Angela Atkins.

Angela Atkins is the co-founder and GM of Elephant Training and HR.
Elephant provide HR advice to SME’s and run management and HR training. Angela is also the author of two best-selling books Management Bites and Employment Bites.

Feel free to contact Angela & her Team on Tel: 09-3652522 if you have any staff issues you'd like to discuss or would like some ideas on how to handle a situation.

See Angela's full BIO & contact details here.

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