Guest Blog Post by Debbie Self, Senior Director of Sales for Walmart - Riviana Foods (originally posted to StoutExecutiveSearch.com)
When having career discussions about next steps, how many of you were told, “you need to read this book”, or “take a seminar or course?” Books such as “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” and “Good to Great,” as well as courses like “Dale Carnegie,” are all very useful. However, do you think that is the best way to prepare a person to grow or to be your successor? How much skill can one learn from a book or a course?
I’ve spent many years in the CPG industry with multiple companies and multiple bosses. I, too, had those same discussions. I read books, attended seminars and took multiple leadership courses, and even went back to school to get my MBA. But those weren’t what helped me the most. The most valuable resource to me was one of my managers. He treated me differently than the previous ones and helped me grow and understand what I needed, and what I’d be facing, to get to the next level. He was honest with me, sometimes too honest, but he didn’t sugar coat anything. For that I thank him. Was it hard to hear? Yes, but in the long-run, way more valuable than any book or course.
As I said, he wasn’t like most managers. Most managers give you an annual evaluation, tell you what you did great and soft sell your areas for opportunity. But the best feedback isn’t during the review. It’s daily feedback. Share the “why” you are providing feedback. Give an example and how to improve so your employee can apply it to the next scenario. Feedback is given because the manager is trying to help the individual. It should be beneficial to the employee and said in a way that minimizes someone getting defensive.
All of this sounds right but what many managers do is focus on your current role. They don’t give specific examples of what you could improve upon for your next role, where you’ve met or exceeded expectations, or where you need to improve upon next year. They want to be nice; they don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they focus on the positives. Often times, managers don’t prepare for giving feedback. This could cause the feedback to not sound genuine or to sound forced without providing the employee a good foundation for what the real problem/situation is and without specifics on how to improve.
If you want to be in a leadership role you need to be able to hear the bad with the good. What it will take for you to get to the next level. What it will take for you to be sitting in your manager’s chair. High performers want to hear feedback but it can still sting. How you give that feedback is extremely important. You need to understand your employees’ and how they respond best to feedback. Don’t be afraid to give it. The point of feedback is so your employees can get better at what they’re doing and what will prepare them for their next role.
Consider the following when soliciting and giving feedback:
-Ask your employees what they have to contribute to the team.
-Ask your employees what they want to do and what are their aspirations? Prepare the employees individually based on what they want to do because the feedback will be unique.
-Build trust so the employee knows your feedback comes from a good place. If you do not have trust, the feedback will not be well received (or not received at all).
-Provide continual feedback and coaching throughout the year so there are no surprises when you sit down together to do their annual review.
-Be honest with them. Tell them what they need to work on to get to where they want to go.
-Encourage your team to provide you feedback. Take it how you would wish that person to take it, so you can be a role model.
Recently, I attended a leadership seminar and heard a great speaker who said something about feedback that really resonated with me. She said, “Don’t just be nice, nice is shallow. Be honest, but be kind.”