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Getting good at addressing work habit issues (like messy desks, too much personal time, being late) and knowing how to effectively address performance issues (like missed deadlines, low production, inadequate work product) can be tricky, but learning how to be effective with these conversations is important.
The typical manager can spend up to two days a week managing poor workplace work habits, low performance and team conflict. Knowing how to give feedback is important skill set for all leaders, and that's why this is one of the classes we teach in our Essential Leadership Performance Tools workshops.
I am so glad I get to teach this process because what you teach, you learn. This skill is a skill I have to practice as it doesn't come naturally to me.
Using this How to Give Feedback Four Step process helps me (and will help you) stay factual, be direct (without being too harsh), and effectively solve performance/work habit issues.
Here's a visual of the acronym of the four steps;
The acronym for quick recall is: W.P.S.A.
The First How to Give Feedback Step is:
You may be thinking, I'm about to fire this person or this person’s been late 10 times! Why in the world would I 'Start Warm?' Good question. The degree of warmth you share will definitely depend on the situation. If someone’s really crossed the line, violating numerous work policies, your warm open may just be a calm demeanor, direct eye contact and firm handshake.
But if this is a solid employee who’s gotten into a bad habit of being late or talking on her cell phone too much, well in that situation, you will want to open with positive comments about this person’s work history, accomplishments and more.
You’ll definitely want to use your judgment on this – keep in mind that you want to build trust and commitment, not destroy it - no matter the situation. Opening with a warm start, moves the conversation in a more positive future-focused, trust-building way.
The Second How to Give Feedback Step is:
In this Step you want to state the problem in a factual and specific manner, sharing only what you’ve seen and heard. Years ago TV character Jack Weber, in the old cop show Dragnet, use to say to anyone he was interviewing, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” Staying fact-based is crucial. Use the litmus test discussed in Improvement Step One found here, in this article, about feedback.
The Third How to Give Feedback Step is:
Before you share your solutions you start by asking the other person, “What ideas do you have?” You might ask - Why do you recommend that I ask the "trouble maker" to provide solutions? What if they offer daffy ideas? More good (and common) questions!
You ask the other person first because when you invite participation, people (if they have been heard and feel understood) tend to want to help solve the problem. It's amazing when it happens, but I promise you if you do these steps, and you listen aggressively, this person will begin helping craft a plan to solve the problem he or she created. When this happens – try to not jump on your desk and sing hallelujah, okay?
The Fourth How to Give Feedback Step is:
This simple step gets skipped. If you skip this step – you’ve blown it.
If you do not confirm what you heard with what the other person heard – you do not have a commitment.
If you leave the meeting without a recap of the agreements, confirmed commitments and a planned follow up conversation – guess what happens? Nothing. Yea, nothing. Communication can be challenging. We hear about 70% of what someone says, and two days later, we only remember at most, half of that, around 35%.
What gets done is what gets measured and tracked. Make this a memorable conversation by scheduling a follow up meeting. You did all this work. Unless you do the Agreement step – this person will forget.
That is W.P.S.A. - a four-step process for remembering how to give feedback without wrecking the relationship. If Brutus had used it with us on a regular basis, I wonder where I'd be today!
For more info on the two actions you can take that will help you use W.P.S.A. effectively, read this article.
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