It would be great if performance management was as simple as setting clear goals, monitoring progress, and cheering people on. The reality is that occasionally the role of manager also includes sharing feedback when things aren’t going well, or when performance isn’t meeting up to expectations. This can be a real challenge for a new manager. How do you deliver negative feedback in a way that will be received well and lead to a change in behavior?
Here are five tips that can help a new manager with this often delicate task:
- Address the situation quickly. If performance is not meeting expectations, new managers should move straight to redirection to stop any further decline in performance. Give negative feedback as soon as possible. Do not save up your feelings. If you “gunnysack” and store up your feelings, when you finally let go of them, they are apt to be out of proportion to the event that triggered your emotional release.
- Be specific. Share what happened clearly and without blame. For example, if a customer did not receive the correct order, the person responsible in the shipping department needs to know that. Second, the person being redirected needs to know the negative impact that the error caused. You might say, “One of our best customers was really upset. She needed that order for a sales presentation, and the fact that it didn’t arrive on time resulted in a less than stellar presentation.”
- Acknowledge your shared responsibility for the situation. New managers should reiterate that good performance is a partnership. Have you provided the right amount of direction and support that allows the direct report to succeed?
- Reset expectations for moving forward. Make sure that tasks and expectations are clear and that there are no misunderstandings.
- Express your continuing trust and confidence in the person. This is probably the most important step—reaffirming the person. New managers sometimes wonder why you would praise people after you have redirected them. You do it for two very important reasons. First, you want to separate people’s behavior from them as individuals. Second, when you walk away after redirecting, you want people to think about what they need to do differently, not about how you treated them. If no reaffirmation is done, people who are redirected tend to focus their energy back to their manager instead of their performance.
Many problems in life stem not from making mistakes, but from not learning from our mistakes. With a little bit of practice, new managers can learn to deliver effective redirections in a way that both improves performance and strengthens relationships at the same time.