In all the busyness of working life and management it is all too easy, particular when dealing with problems much of the time, to forget that most of the time your team do a great job.
If this is not the case, then stop reading right now and make the necessary changes to your team and then continue reading.
Welcome back! Now let's start where we left off. For the most part, our staff do a great job. On the odd occasion though they, like us, make mistakes. Some are minor, others are major. At times like this we often jump in and solve a problem. In the cross-fire our staff get it in the neck. They are informed in no uncertain terms the extent and the detail of exactly what they did to cause the problem.
The type of feedback that we administer at this stage is not best described as a blunt instrument, as such a device is a generic tool for inflicting pain. A better parallel would be that of a surgeon's knife. It is cutting, precise and detailed.
For example, we wouldn't simply say 'You stuffed up on that one!' This is merely a blunt instrument. You would follow this up with a specific comment like 'you forgot to let Jim in Production know last Thursday before close of business that the shipment had been delayed beyond the deadline!'. Now that is a surgeon's knife. It hones in on the specific area of error and goes in for the kill.
At this point, I would add that this article is not about how to give feedback in a 'praise sandwich' approach. Of course, there is nothing wrong with providing appropriate feedback to staff when things go wrong but what about when they do something right?
Let's say we have an error rate of 1.2%. That means we conversely have a 98.8% success rate. We can all react disproportionately when 1.2% becomes 2.2% for a day, but what about when we continually hit 98.8% or even go beyond this? What do we do then?
For most of us the answer is simple. We do very little about drawing anyone's attention to this. I am not talking here about league tables in the office showing top sales person, or the score card at the factory gate saying 212 days since last accident. I am not even talking about a general thanks to staff in the weekly meeting, or even an off the cuff 'thanks a lot John' cast across the room as John leaves for home.
All of these are good but they are offer generalised positive strokes to people. If we are to be specific with criticism we need to be just as precise when it comes to praise. If we make the effort to point out every flaw in an error, then isn't it only fair that when giving positive feedback we are equally specific?
For example, let's imagine Jayne dealt with that customer complaint very well. You could say 'Jayne, well done, you handled that complaint very well'. In this instance I would score you 8 out of 10 for application of basic management skills. I would score you 5 out of 10 for effort and a meagre 3 out of 10 for creativity.
You did what it says in the text books. For that I applaud you. You provided some positive feedback at the most appropriate time. But what you need to work on is how you are making the connection with Jayne from a general thank you to a specific, targeted statement which adds value and celebrates the building blocks of effectiveness.