You know the yearly routine. Performance evaluations are due. You sit down to write out your thoughts about a particular staff member. You make your comments. You then present your evaluation to the employee. They quietly sit there, sign the form, and then go back to their work with no motivation to make any sort of change at all. Is this management? No. It’s a yearly report that holds little or no meaning – unless the evaluation causes no merit increase for the employee.
Your job is not merely to run reports, read those reports, produce and read emails – in other words, don’t hide behind your computer. “There are managers so preoccupied with their e-mail messages that they never look up from their screens to see what’s happening in the non-digital world” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Good Business: Flow, Leadership and the Making of Meaning).
To put punch into performance, you MUST get out of your office and get on the floor with your team. You MUST observe what they are doing. You MUST hear what they are saying to your members. You MUST!
Right now, think about one of your employees. How do they generally interact with your customers? Are they pleasant and professional? Are they rude and caustic? Are they building relationships or are they burning bridges? Are they apathetic and lifeless? Do you know? Or do you rely on what others tell you about them?
The only effective way to know how your staff performs is to spend time observing them do the work. Get out and get involved in listening to customer interactions and phone calls. Is the employee following your service standards at every encounter? Are they following up with phone calls as they promised a customer with a question? Are they cooperating with their team mates or others in different departments? If they are not, what do you do about it? Should you wait until next week’s “coaching session”?
Observation coaching involves something called “power follow ups”. If you see or hear something that is not the standard you set for your staff member, try the following:
- You observe an employee, Joe, waiting on a member. During the interaction, the employee rarely made eye contact and he did not use the customer’s name (both standards for your company).
- As soon as the customer walks away from the transaction, turn to Joe and say (quietly to them directly), “Joe, I noticed that while that customer was here, you hardly made eye contact with them. You also did not use their name. We’ve been trained that those 2 simple interaction skills make a big difference in how we build important relationships with our customers. I’ll be here observing the next several transactions. I need you to work on those 2 skills. In a while, I’ll give you my feedback on how you did. I know you can do this.”
Do you think Joe will make the changes? You bet! He knows that you know how he is interacting. You just witnessed it. He also knows that you are intentionally watching him and that he now has his marching orders. After several more interactions with customers, watch what happens in the following interactions:
- Joe begins to make eye contact, intentionally uses the customer’s name and even smiles.
- Here’s your power follow-up, “I knew you could do it, Joe! That was great. Did you see how Mrs. Jones responded to you? She even asked you some additional questions that allowed you to talk about that new product. You’ve proven you can do this. Remember, our commitment is to do this at every encounter every day. It will become habit. Super job, Joe. I appreciate your concentration on this.”
You have just provided immediate, specific feedback on your employee’s performance.
He performed + you observed + you praised = a power follow-up
Chances are he will become more consistent with his customer interactions. By the way, don’t make this the last time you ever observe this employee on this issue.
Observing coupled with a power follow-up also works with negative behavior. The secret here is to give your power follow-up in a more private environment such as your office or a side room away from other employees. You never want to embarrass a team member in front of others on the team. It will only demotivate or anger that person.
As someone once said, “you have to inspect what you expect” and that means getting out and observing.
Coming next: Be Positive