At the core of every great leader is the desire to inspire and motivate those around them. And when you’re on the leadership team in a company, your tenure depends upon it. Inspiring and motivating is easier said than done. It takes more than a motivational poster or a stern reminder to inspire your employees. It’s not impossible, however, and also far less complicated than you might think.
Nothing can discourage an employee more, or put them on the defensive more quickly, than feeling like they’re being treated or evaluated unfairly. As the person in leadership, it’s essential that you make sure that your feedback is fair, unbiased, and backed up with examples.
Keep Notes Systematically
It is essential to have an organized and standardized way for tracking employee strengths and challenges. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Create a document for each employee. If you have set goals with the employee, list these out on the top of the document. Next, as things come up (good or bad) jot down the date and what happened.
1/15/2017 Jeff stayed late in order to help spreadsheet get turned in on time when our client had a last minute need
3/20/2017 Had a conversation with Jeff about remembering to follow best practices when submitting client sheets
This is a powerful tool since it helps identify themes – wins and challenge areas – that come up over and over. Once you begin to recognize patterns, you can address them with your employee, whether they need praise or redirection. The document you’ve developed provides you with specific examples you can refer to in these conversations. Discussing specific examples will help your employees feel you are being fair and accurate in your assessment. It also gives you evidence to whether the employee is meeting their goals, and if not, what needs to be adjusted.
Encourage and Equip
With nearly every employee there will be a time when it becomes necessary for you to draw attention to an area of weakness. In How To Win Friends & Influence People, a whole chapter is spent on “If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin” it’s a great chapter but it can be summed up in this tidy sentence:
“It is always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.”
Start With the Good
This nugget of truth can make all the difference in the world when needing to approach an employee with a concern or area of weakness. As we suggested before, throughout the year you should be jotting down the above-and-beyond actions an employee takes, not just the negatives. Start off your conversation with the good. Thank them specifically for the areas where they excel. Seeing that you appreciate their hard work will go a long ways towards helping them accept and change the rest. Having specific examples will also help this feel genuine, and not sugar-coated.
Every employee is doing at least one thing right, or they wouldn’t be employees of yours. Even when tackling large and concerning areas, find at least one trait or quality about the employee to praise at the beginning.
Give Resources and Suggestions for Improvement
Prepare to provide resources or tips for how the employee can succeed in the areas where they struggle. For example, if an employee consistently struggles with grammar, you may suggest a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway. If they struggle with time management, it may be constructive to review what tools they use, and how they structure their work day. When you come to the meeting with solutions and not just criticism the employee sees that you are willing to help them succeed in their career. This also helps them feel that you’re on their side, not there to tear them down.
Keep the Conversation Going
While formal meetings are necessary from time to time, you should continually follow up with your employees. Make sure your employee knows what they are doing well and where they can improve in real time. Positive feedback motivates the employee by recognizing their hard work. Bringing up issues as they arise ensures that the employee doesn’t feel side-swiped when you address on-going concerns formally.