In the past year I have done quite a few training sessions on performance management.
The sessions confirmed my suspicion that the Australian working culture is abysmal at performance feedback. Contrary to the popular stereotype of blunt, frank and open communication, in our workplaces we are, in the main, unassertive, indirect, ironic, passive and excessively accommodating. With some rare exceptions – the people who do the tough conversations for the rest of us.
We are also reluctant to praise, and do it badly. “You are great” doesn’t work. “Thanks for staying on last night to get that report in, I was really stressed about it”, is more valuable. It is specific, accurate, and
embedded in real workplace demands.
We are not open to feedback on our own performance, we would rather walk on hot coals than seek feedback from our colleagues. And many of us like to persist under an illusion that we are going just fine, thanks very much.
We have overplayed the significance of formal performance evaluation, dreading the annual appraisal because we don’t have a frequent and consistent approach to performance conversations.
These things are simple. But they need to be translated into daily practice, to encourage a culture of robust and respectful feedback about performance – one conversation at a time.
Some practical suggestions
-Encourage frequent conversations about performance and results (start small, everyday stuff)
-notice and articulate the good stuff (not just the things needing improvement) and be very specific
-Start early, as soon as there is a problem
-focused on behaviour and results not on personality
-Model being open to feedback from others, encourage people to seek it out
Practice the language of good feedback
- Future – oriented
- Use the feedback sandwich (positive, improvement, positive)
- Use questions to generate awareness and ownership (“how did you go on that document?”)
- Keep putting the ball in their court
- Suggest and share: “consider…” “have a think about…”
If you would like a stimulus for change in your workplace, invite us to come and run a half day workshop for your team.