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Askin’ how you’re doin’

Askin’ how you’re doin’

If I could wage a magic wand and change one thing to make companies more competitive and effective — as well as happier places to work …

(actually, there’s any number of ways I could end that sentence.  Here’s one:)

I’d make sure everybody knows how they’re thought of.

It boggles my mind how many leaders do not know how well they’re doing in the eyes of their peers, their direct reports — even their supervisors.

As an executive coach, I sometimes get hired by leaders who are surreptitiously afraid they’re not maximizing their potential.  But they aren’t really sure, because they either don’t get feedback, or don’t trust the feedback they get.

I’m currently coaching a manager at a Fortune 50 company whose insecurity poured out of him when we met.  And he’d never had a bad performance evaluation!  But he always assumed that his bosses were too “nice” to tell him the truth — which, he said, the company culture insidiously promotes.  Instead of telling the truth about substandard performance, the tendency is to shuffle the important jobs to someone else who can handle them.  Sound familiar?  I hope not — how healthy is that?

Every employee should know how they’re doing, in the eyes of their colleagues, all the time

Formal evaluation is an important piece, of course.  How long has it been since you’ve had one?  — especially one that includes a 360?  Every leader needs a regular 360, so they know how they’re perceived not just by their boss, but by direct reports, peers, and possibly other stakeholders — and it should be as transparent as trust will allow.  (If people fear recrimination, though, anonymous surveys should be available.)

But even more importantly, informal evaluation must be woven into the fabric of all interactions.  Every leader — no, every employee — needs to know how they’re doing, in the eyes of their colleagues, all the time.  If the results of your written evaluation are a surprise to you, there’s something hugely wrong with the management culture.  Formal evaluations should codify and refine what you already know about how well you’re doing in the eyes of your co-workers. 

How do you keep that informal input flowing in healthy ways?  Everyone in the organization should be trained, consistently, in giving honest yet compassionate feedback.  It’s called communication skills, and I don’t know any organization that can’t use more of it, to become more successful.

A leader’s first job is cultivate the organization’s primary asset — its people.  Cultivating doesn’t mean coddling.  It means identifying both successes and challenges, and supporting folks in growing through the challenges so they become more effective and more fulfilled.  That’s what a healthy organization looks like.  How does yours shape up?

YOUR PATH FORWARD:  Ask yourself and your colleagues:

  • Do we have an effective 360 in place?  One that gives people valuable information about what’s working and what needs improvement?  One that allows respondents to be honest and identified?  One that allows for anonymous feedback where trust is lacking — but works on shoring up that trust?  Our company, Path Forward, offers a quite thorough 360, covering all the essentials of effective leadership.  Contact us if you’d like to know more.
  • Does our culture support informal, honest, yet compassionate daily feedback on performance, both up and down the chain of command?  If not, what should we do about it?

    About the Author

    Steve Motenko
    Steve Motenko is an executive coach, leadership trainer, and co-host of The Boss Show, a weekly podcast on workplace dynamics. Steve and his Boss Show co-host, Jim Hessler, are co-authors of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife and dog, whom he loves, and a cat he tolerates usually pretty well.

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