One of the hardest things for business owners or managers to do is to let someone who works for them go. Working in the call center environment, I got lots of practice. You see, call centers are a production environment where everything is measured and those who don’t deliver are let go. The standards are clearly explained and information is given along the way so that, theoretically, a termination conversation is not a surprise.
While never fun, there are definitely people for whom the job isn’t a good fit. Like the lady who, after eight weeks of customer service training said, “I’m sorry sir, but you pressed the wrong button and got customer service. We can’t help you. You’ll need to call back and make the correct selection in the automated system,” instead of transferring the caller to where they could get help. It wasn’t the first situation like that, and I had zero doubt that letting her go was the correct decision for the company.
So the issue is, how do you provide impactful feedback so clear and specific that the other person truly knows what they need to do differently? It is easy to say something that downplays an issue because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. You might even think it is a kindness to provide a gentle message rather than directly explaining what needs to happen differently. However, if you get to the point that you are firing someone from their position, you need to consider if softballing your feedback was actually kind.
When I teach my clients to give feedback, we work on making sure that the message provides clarity about what is working and what needs to change. It isn’t hard but you need to follow every step.
Step 1 – State the facts. This is what you observed, what they did, and what happened. Not what so-and-so told you happened or what you think–it needs to be the facts from your experience. By starting with the facts, it is hard for the other person to dispute the reality of the situation. What you create is a foundation for true communication, and that helps to reduce defensiveness.
Step 2 – State what you think. Now you get to share your opinion. This can be powerful because you are directly linking the facts to the conclusion you have about the situation.
Step 3 – State how you feel. Everyone processes information differently. Some people are more inclined to hear logic and facts. Others care about how people feel. By including both what you think and how you feel, you increase the likelihood of making a real connection. This is the step that people most often skip, but its power makes talking about your feelings more than worth even a few moments of discomfort, if this isn’t natural for you.
Step 4 – State clearly what you want to see change. Be specific and exact.
If the situation would be a write up in your organization, do documentation as you usually would.
Here is an example:
John, in the past four weeks, you have missed work on three Mondays and were more than two hours late to work on the only Monday you came into work. I think that something is happening on the weekend that is impacting your ability to come to work on Monday. I feel that it isn’t fair to everyone who works here because they are having to pick up your responsibilities every Monday. I need you to be at work on time on Mondays going forward.
The more you practice providing specific, actionable feedback, the easier it will be. It may surprise you how universally helpful this technique is. It isn’t just for employees. Think about the situations where you were disappointed or frustrated and consider if impactful feedback might not lead to an improved outcome.
Charlise Latour a business coach and owner of Accelerate Your Success. She works with each client to determine what their goals are and create a plan so they can achieve them. She is actively involved in Dancing & Singing With The King which raises money to promote dance education including working with local schools to offer dance classes during the school day. This is a natural fit as she is an avid ballroom dancer.