It is clear that the key reason managers avoid giving feedback is not because they don’t understand the problem but rather because they don’t know how to script a message that is “sayable” and “hearable.” The Performance Continuum Feedback® Method (PCFM) is a straight forward approach to do just that.
The methodology helps you put the focus on the positive, desired performance rather than highlighting the current negative performance. It's the right approach when talking with an employee the first time about off-target performance. The assumption is that if the individual was aware of the expected performance he/she would work to meet expectations.
Step #1: Identify the Performance Issue
Identify the off-target actions that are holding the individual back. Then describe it in the opposite, positive terms. For example, if the employee lacks finesse when dealing with clients and behaves like a “bull in a china shop” the manager would ask for the employee to develop a more polished and professional style. For an employee that makes frequent mistakes, the manager would talk in terms of developing more accuracy. For the employee who chronically complains that everything is a problem but never offers any solutions, the manager might ask the employee to develop a problem solving approach.
Step #2: Be Specific about the Desired Change
It is important to get specific about what you mean by a “more polished and professional approach”, “more accuracy” or a “problem solving approach”. For example, “What I mean by ‘develop a problem solving approach’ is that when you first notice a problem that is preventing you from getting your job done I want you to first think through a solution and then approach me if it’s something you need my help with”.
Step #3: Describe the Reason for the Change (Importance)
Most people want to know why a change in performance is important. You'll want to explain to the employee the benefit of developing the performance area. First, ask yourself “What is the negative business impact of the current performance"?
In the case of the chronic complainer who never offers solutions, their behavior most likely creates negativity, wastes time and garners complaints from co-workers who are sick and tired of listening to this person drone on about what’s wrong. So, the “here’s why I’m asking you to focus on this” part of the message would sound something like this:
“The reason I want you to focus on solving problems is that people will notice and appreciate your ‘how do I make things better around here’ approach. This will make more constructive use of the time we have and it will bring more positive energy into the team”.
Notice how the message is still honest yet talks in terms of what WILL happen when the employee develops a problem solving approach.
These keys are the core of the Performance Continuum Feedback® Method, a step-by-step methodology designed to make anyone comfortable delivering even the most difficult feedback.
Talking in terms of the desired performance versus the current undesired performance serves two purposes:
Bypassing negative performance descriptions and the resulting negative employee reaction allows the employee to respond more positively; ultimately facilitating the move towards the solution phase of the discussion – the ultimate goal of feedback.
A simple rule of thumb is to provide the employee with at least two opportunities to receive the feedback and make progress on the issue. Only when it becomes clear that the employee is unwilling or unable to make progress should more extreme measures be used - such as disciplinary action or documented performance plans.