An important way we help individuals on our team stay on track is through maintaining an on-going conversation about how they are doing and where they are going. We do this through engaging them on their terms.
There will be times when behavior change or growth is needed to achieve team and organizational goals. Introducing the opportunity to change is a process. We start with the understanding that we can’t make anyone change. Sure, we can “lay down the law” and see some temporary results.
Typically, when we resort to playing the “I’m the boss” card we have already lost and probably need some coaching ourselves. Nearly all growing leaders do this periodically. Realizing we still have room to grow is healthy.
Most employees feel apprehensive about receiving feedback that might require change because they already feel they are doing the right things the best they can; any message that doesn’t affirm this point of view has the opportunity to be received as a negative.
Making Change Stick
When we want to see change in our best team members it is important how we frame the conversation. Assuming that we have built a trusting relationship with them, we have the opportunity to speak into their lives and when they are accepting we have the privilege of helping them grow into the fullness of the person they were designed to be. We understand enduring change occurs when the individual commits to new ways because they feel it is in their best interest.
Prior to your conversation, think about these things and see if they help produce a more productive outcome.
Share your positive intentions
It is helpful to share what the conversation is about, how you feel about them, and the their importance to the team. Do tell them how much you appreciate them for who they are and how they contribute; perhaps cite a recent example. No one ever complains about receiving too much sincere recognition.
Focus on the important
People looking to improve will struggle to change more than 1 area at a time. This means that all of our preferences on what we would like them to do must be set aside. Agree to make our conversation about 1 material thing that will make a difference and stick to it. When we are helping our best people get better, it is not about us; it is about them.
Ensure examples are in context
When providing feedback to our people, it should be in context and relevant. What one person from another group said must be scrutinized carefully as we don’t know context, motivations, or team dynamics. For example, if we hear something that seems contrary to our team member’s character, our first response should be curiosity. If this is the point we are discussing, we ask open ended questions to learn more before making any judgements. When we take this approach, the outcome will likely be a deeper understanding of your teammate’s values and stronger commitment by the employee to you and the team as a result of your caring to learn their perspective.
One responsibility of any leader is to be helpful. We remove obstacles. We avoid erecting them. In these conversations it is important that our people know that we understand our responsibility to help. This doesn’t mean we do their work, but it does mean that we are accessible, provide appropriate guidance, and affirm them when they are on track.
Unless this is an evaluation, avoid feedback that is unactionable. For example, if the conversation is about a project that ended poorly and we need to talk about it. An unconstructive way to present this might be to tell the employee that the project failed and ask them what they are going to do about it. A better way, would be to identify (with the employee) areas that they felt gave them challenges and then together outline actions they can take to handle similar situations next time. The best managers find new opportunities for them to practice these areas for growth.
Leave an employee in a better state
People have value. Leaders that others want to follow leave people in a better state than when they found them. They do this through listening, caring, and helping set them on a better path when they need it. Our motivation coming into every conversation should be how we can add value to this individual.
Shepherding: The art of becoming the leader others want to follow.