Perhaps the most important factor in employee engagement is the employee's relationship with their immediate boss. How and when a leader provides feedback has a large impact on how people think and feel about working for them. We have observed many leaders over the years. There are many ways to be an effective leader, however some leadership behaviors have a much more positive impact on employee engagement than others. One thing great leaders do differently is how and when they provide feedback. Here are some of the most important lessons we have learned.
Frequent feedback is better than infrequent feedback. Some leaders think that no news is good news, but it isn't good leadership. People should never wonder where they stand with their boss. It creates unnecessary anxiety and fear. More feedback is better than infrequent feedback and the more specific and close it is to the event, the more effective it is.
Knowing when, where and how to deliver feedback is as important as the frequency. The goal of feedback is to encourage and inspire better future performance, not to punish past behavior or publicly embarrass or hurt people. When delivering feedback, begin with the end in mind. How do you want your employee to behave in the future and how do you want them to think and feel about you as their leader and about the company they work for. It is important for feedback to be experienced as a positive learning experience rather than punishment.
Feedback should not just be negative. Lee's Mom used to say "You get more in life with honey than with vinegar." You accomplish more and bring out the best in people when you catch them doing things right and provide acknowledgement and praise instead of just looking for what they are doing wrong. Most leaders think of themselves as problem solvers rather than cheerleaders and coaches!
Here is a powerful exercise that Ken learned when working as an executive coach at ConAgra Foods that makes a big difference in how people feel about coming to work.
The Ten-Dime Exercise:
Put ten dimes in your right pocket and move a dime each time you catch someone doing something right and give sincere positive feedback. At the end of the day, see how many dimes you have moved from your right pocket to your left pocket. If you haven't moved all ten, try harder the next day and track your progress over time.
Ken has given this exercise to many leaders over the years and they are startled at how challenging it is for them to catch people doing things right because their bias is to look for what is wrong that needs to be fixed! Spring is a time of new beginnings and renewal. Make this spring a time for you to focus on giving feedback that inspires.