Management Success Tip #131: A Better Approach to Employee Feedback: Adopt the 5:1 Magic Feedback Ratio

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You know that giving feedback is essential to your employees’ ability to perform well, but you’re not always sure about how to best go about it.

The “praise sandwich” – where a manager begins feedback with a dose of praise, then offers the criticism, only to end with another layer of praise – has been much maligned as leading to weak management, among other criticisms.

Unfortunately, some managers have turned to giving purely negative feedback, to the exclusion of positive, in order not to seem “weak.” But this approach weakens the employee-manager relationship itself, hardly the desired outcome.

What to do?  Don’t worry so much about the “sandwich,” focus instead on the ratio of positive to negative comments.

University of Washington psychologist John Gottman has noted in his study of long-term relationships, that in the most successful ones the ratio of positive to negative interactions is 5:1  – even in the midst of a conflict.

That 5:1 ratio has been observed by countless others. It’s an excellent guideline.

Beyond that, put into practice Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s findings: that praising persistent efforts, even in situations where the employee has failed, helps build resilience and determination, while praising talent and ability results in risk-aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.

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Management Success Tip #130: The Frontline Employee Experience: Drain or Boost to Your Company?

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Your frontline employees are vital to your customers’ or clients’ experience. Lethargic, unmotivated frontline employees are a drain your business cannot afford.

Obviously you want to hire frontline employees with enthusiastic, upbeat attitudes. The hiring mantra of many top companies is: “Hire for attitude, train for skill.”

Beyond that, though, how can you assure yourself of engaged frontliners?

In Dilip Bhattacharjee, Bruce Jones and Francisco C. Ortega’s analysis of how you can emulate what top companies do, they conclude:

“Tap into the creativity of your front line. Giving frontline employees responsibility and autonomy inspires them to do whatever they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked. Frontline staff are also a rich source of customer insights. They can help leaders understand what customers want without the time and expense of market research.

“Take Wawa, a US convenience-store chain. One enterprising manager decided his customers would like a coffee bar and a bigger choice of fresh food. When customer traffic and profits soared, head office noticed and dispatched a team to find out why. With facts in hand, the company quickly developed a plan to replicate the innovation across its network.”

Here’s the thing: although the authors focus on the upside to the customer experience and company profits, the upside to employee engagement is just as tremendous!

Employees who are given responsibility and autonomy, followed up by reward and recognition, become engaged employees. They own their work, as opposed to being owned by it.

Management Success Tip #129: Be a Great Manager: Listen So Your Employees Feel Heard.

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The best managers are terrific listeners. You may think you’re a good listener – after all you do attend to whatever your employees are saying, and you hear every word. But that may not be enough to convince whoever you’re listening to believe they are really being heard.

What research calls “empathic listening” involves more than just your ears. Really listening to someone requires attention to nonverbal cues as well: such things as tone, facial expressions and other body language. Not just the other person’s tone, facial expressions and body language, but your own!

Few things are more insulting than to be talking to someone and have them turn away from you. Well, if you drop your eye contact when you’re talking to or listening to someone, that’s experienced very much as if you’d just walked away mid-sentence.

Similarly, if you sit there like a stone when an employee talks to you, without allowing your face and/or body language to reflect your attentiveness, they will not feel heard. One of the easiest ways to express attentiveness, is to nod every so often as in “I hear you, I’m following along, please go on.”

And of course, responding with phrases such as “Thank you for letting me know how you feel about this situation, your input is valuable,” or “Please, tell me more” or “I’d like to hear more about your thoughts on the situation” and the like will go a long way towards letting your employee know that he or she truly is heard.