When was the last time an employee asked you, "How am I doing?" The reality is most employees will never ask this question. But if they do, most managers rush to give a quick response:
- "Oh! You're doing great!"
- "Hey! Just keep up the great work, you're doing fine!"
- "Yeah! Well, you're working so hard!"
And that might be the only feedback an employee gets outside of performance review time. Unfortunately, these answers don't give employees much to work with, so some employees will ask for more.
"But really, how am I doing?"
If you get pressed beyond the three go-to answers above, keep these tips in mind:
- No one wants to hear they suck, even if they really suck.
- 99% of people feel they're doing better than you think they're doing. Put that into context before you respond.
- People love to hear that you told someone else they're going great. That's like positive feedback on steroids!
- Comparing how they are doing to someone else in your group is never a good idea for team dynamics.
- Using a scale is always a cop-out. "I'd say you're a solid B-!" "On a scale of 1 to 10, you're easily a 6.5!" What does that even mean!? The employee will only want to hear they're an A or a 10; every other response will demotivate most employees.
What should it sound like when one of your employees asks you how they're doing? I think it should sound something like this:
"Great question! Let's talk about it. How do you think you're doing?"
It's not a deflection, but you need to know where this is coming from. So, let them tell you. Your answer depends on where their mindset is. If they think they walk on water, but you see them drowning, you've got a giant gap you need to cross. If you're both close in your assessment of the performance, it's an easier conversation. Regardless, I think you should give them something when they've asked for it. That might go something like this:
"I'm glad to hear you feel you're doing well on the project. I agree with you. Remember we set out some goals prior for this project and I don't want to lose sight of them and what we've determined will be successful. As of right now, you are right in line with where we need to be at this point. If you want to hit it out of the park and be exceptional, you will need to ...."
Here's how to structure your feedback:
- Start by acknowledging their assessment and share your thoughts.
- Reiterate expectations and how you've decided to measure success.
- Give the employee an idea of where they stand.
- Tell them what they need to do next to be successful.
Now, give them a chance to be great. Truly great.
Too often we tell someone they're doing great when they're only doing the job they were hired to do and nothing more. That isn't great; that's meeting expectations. Most people aren't happy with meeting expectations; they want to do more. It's up to you to be clear on what that looks like.