Growing up, I had a poster of Dale Murphy on my wall that I stared at everyday. I know you’re wondering who in the world Dale Murphy was. He was only the greatest hitter to ever play the game of baseball. At least, that’s the argument you would have gotten from my nine year old self. I played baseball (catcher on good days, left field on the others) and dreamed of being a home run crusher. That dream, surprisingly, never quite came true. So, each night, I’d go to bed and stare at the picture of Brett Murphy and his magical glowing bat, and imagine what it would be like to send one sailing over center field.
I also had a picture of Michael Jordan, in Carolina blue, soaring through the air on his way to a dunk. I loved basketball, and was always the tallest kid on my team. That was my skill. I was tall. I shot hundreds of foul shots, layups, and long distance drains on my driveway, over and over and over. My skill set never seemed to expand past being vertically gifted.
So, when I got on my teams as a kid, I felt out of place. Awkward, unsure, not clear on where to go or what to do. I’d get so nervous in games. Once, a second baseman told me that my third base coach wanted me, and when I looked over at the coach, I took my foot off the bag, and the kid tagged me out. THEN my third base coach really did have something to say to me. I left the field with my head down on that one.
On the court once, I was running so hard to keep up with everyone, that I was really dragging. I got a defensive rebound, and because I was so out of sorts, I shot it again. In the wrong basket. Of course, I MADE that basket.
I loved playing, but I wasn’t very good. Huge passion, big work ethic (thanks to my dad), and a burning drive to be great. But my coaches never paid any attention to me. Now, to be fair, at that age, they were dad’s who coached because their kids were on the team, and someone had to do it. They didn’t know much about coaching. They just gave it their best. But what they offered didn’t move me forward, and cost me millions in pro paychecks, not to mention the poster endorsements!
Even though I’ve forgiven them (sort of), I do know that you and I have a chance to step up with the volunteers or employees we lead and do better. We can help people become the home run hitting, three point draining superstars they want to.
One great tool to develop is the ability to give clear, consistent feedback. Often, we buy into the myth of the annual review, and then often skip them. This is not going to get it done. That’s the leadership equivalent of my little league coaches. We can be better.
You need a plan. How will you give regular feedback to the people you lead? There are a few options:
- Face to face is best. Speak to people, and listen to them, in real time. Think conversation, not lecture. This means lots of sentences that end with question marks. Very few that end with exclamation points.
- Written evaluations are a good backup. Add these to regular face to face conversations, and they can be great. Make these carry the day alone, and you open yourself up to being misunderstood all kinds of ways.
- Phone calls. My least favorite. These are ok in a pinch, but a regular diet of these leaves the people you lead feeling like second class citizens. If you lead people at a distance, at least schedule regular video chats.
What do you talk about when you give feedback?
- Identify where they are winning. I’m not talking about the compliment, challenge, compliment sandwich stuff. Genuinely talk to them about what they are doing great. Be specific about it, and how it affects the whole organization for the better.
- If they are not meeting expectations, have examples written down before the meeting. Be kind, but be clear and honest. Answer the “why” questions for them before they have to ask them.
- Define some clear goals that will move them and their area forward. Make them simple, easy to remember, and measurable in some form.
The more regularly you schedule these discussion, the less fearful it will be for people. The less often the meetings occur, you need to assume a fair amount of “What did I do wrong?” on the person’s part when you did finally sit down. Force yourself to schedule them regularly, and understand that these meetings ARE as important as the work on your desk. A well functioning team will do FAR more than you will alone sitting at your desk.
If you pour into people, and these regular meetings don’t help them improve, then you’ll need to consider what we’ll be discussing in the next post: How to Help Someone Move to a Better Role.
If you missed the other discussions in this series on Recruiting and Training Volunteers, we’re looked at Seven Crucial Questions for Recruiting Volunteers, Four Steps to Pick the Best Possible Volunteers, Seven Keys to a Great Ask, Test Drives Save Lives, and How to Catch People Doing the Right Thing . I’d love to hear your input on any and all of the posts.