In his book The Roadmap to Freedom, peak performance expert Chris McIntyre describes how to build a core team of superstars that will help you lead your company to the next level. In this edited excerpt, the author explains what kind of feedback you need from your employees after 30 days to help them succeed.
Performance management conversations often get hurt by lack of focus. How can you ensure your 30-day check-ins are optimally focused? There are three statements your superstar can make to guarantee you hit the feedback bull's-eye.
Check-In Statement 1: Here's What's Not Green and Why
One of my favorite approaches for receiving status updates is the simple stoplight approach:
Red = Stop: On hold, not currently moving forward
Yellow = Caution: There could be an issue here
Green = Go: Everything is fine and on track
The stoplight approach is useful for keeping your 30-day check-ins highly focused. When it comes to obstacles, you must first expect your team to identify them by clarifying what's not moving forward appropriately -- and why.
The why part of this question is pretty straightforward, but let's touch on the principle behind it. You probably hate to hear "I don't know why it's broke, boss" from someone who's clearly trying to duck ownership of an issue. Now, if the answer was "I don't know why yet, but I'm trying to figure it out," that's a different story. The principle is that your superstars should never feel comfortable bringing you a problem without also bringing you a reason why the problem is occurring.
Check-In Statement 2: Here's What I'm Doing About It
The "Here's what I'm doing about it" response may seem obvious, but there's a more strategic function at play. Too many small-business owners set themselves up as being the primary solution provider. That traditional top-down leadership approach can be a roadblock to long-term freedom and limits the growth, creativity and accountability of your team. The "What I'm doing about it" approach expects superstar ownership and minimizes the potential for consistently saying "What do you think, boss?"
The "Here's what I'm doing about it" approach isn't meant to give your glory hounds another chance to brag about the work they do. It's to ensure your team isn't in the habit of pushing tough decisions up the chain.
While the yellow and the red areas are critical to discuss during your check-ins, be sure not to focus solely on them. Reporting on the green areas gives your superstars a chance to shine and allows you some good news along with the never-ending challenges.
Check-In Statement 3: Here's Where I Need Your Help
The first two check-in statements are all about expecting your superstars to own the issues related to their performance. There's still one final, laser-focused statement for them to answer, but this one is about you: What can you do for them? Without fail, one of the questions the best leaders consistently ask is "Where do you need my help?"
Expect your superstars to directly ask:
Could you start _____________ so I can_____________________?
Could you stop ______________ so I can _____________________?
Could you continue ___________ so I can _____________________?
Start: Hey, boss, could you start delegating more of the cable business services work so I can develop a better relationship with their sales team?"
In the above, you're encouraging very direct language for a reason. Encouraging direct language creates trust and improves communication. By expecting superstars to speak up about their needs, you empower accountability. By linking their requests to the business case, you're asking them to demonstrate that they understand the impact of their actions on the goals.
Stop: Hey, boss, could you stop dropping off last-minute noncritical tasks, like updating the database, so I can focus on more important work like the Canadian proposal?
One of the biggest gaps in leadership today occurs because small-business owners often fail to ask the most important question of all: Tell me what I need to stop doing to help you better accomplish your objectives. How empowering. How ego-free. How necessary. It's very possible that you are doing things you think are useful that may not be. Ask. Listen. Stop.
Continue: Hey, boss, I'd love for you to continue letting me run the staff meetings, so I can establish myself more as a leader on the team.
Lastly, ask what is something you are doing that is working for them. By encouraging answers to that question directly, you can confirm what things you're doing that work for each superstar. This is important for you to know, not guess about.
Hitting the bull's-eye with each of your superstars by consistently responding to these three statements will add substantial focus to your feedback sessions. It will also help everyone become more fully engaged. Be honest when responding to feedback, and always link your own answers to a business outcome. Make sure your superstars know you're not dismissing their inputs, even if you can't act on them. If your team genuinely feels heard, they will usually respect your choices.
Chris McIntyre is the author of The Roadmap to Freedom: A Small-Business Owner's Guide to Connecting People to a Core Message (Entrepreneur Press, 2012). He is a motivational speaker, executive coach and consultant focused on peak productivity. He is based in San Diego, Calif.