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Communication, whether verbal or written, is a given if you work in a business. Some of us are very comfortable speaking openly to a variety of people and some of us would rather spend time in our office working alone than chatting up colleagues or customers.

However, if you are a manager, you have an obligation to communicate with your employees; you are the conduit from the executive leadership to your team. I ask: if you have such an important role to play in the lives of your employees, why do you take it lightly?

I consistently hear stories of how managers give one or more of their employees a pass by seemly ignoring unsavory work behavior. Sometimes the issue will go on for years either because the manager thinks they have addressed it and really hasn't or the employee doesn't feel any consequences of not changing. When this happens, your good employees leave.

Having to give feedback can be challenging because we may be too light-hearted about the situation or we may be too heavy handed. If you manage employees; stick to these four key steps for feedback sessions to be successful and not full of angst for either party.

  1. Set weekly meetings - During this time you want to find out what they did the previous week that they are proud of, what would they like to learn next week and how you can help them?
  2. Seek first to understand then to be understood - If you need to have a difficult conversation with your employee, it will be easier if you have consistently met with them, built trust, and find out first why they are behaving a certain way.
  3. Say it like it is - Don't give hard feedback "sandwiched" by good feedback. If you need to address an issue, review step 2 then address the issue. Period.
  4. Finally - As a manager you have the power to make the culture of your workplace great by ensuring you address disruptive employee behaviors immediately. Don't let months, weeks and years pass before addressing the issue.

You can balance difficult conversations with your employees by meeting consistently and building trust. Improvement can come with easy feedback as well as with difficult feedback. It's when your employees trust that you have their best interest at heart that they will work hard to consistently improve.


Larry Hart

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