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I remember receiving my first formal performance review like a nightmare. I was 22 years old.  I sat down with my Boss in early September, and he began to chronicle all the things I had done wrong since the beginning of the season – in May!   My boss told me, “Overall, you’re doing great and I look forward to having you back next year. But here are some things you need to work on.”

I felt like the wind was knocked out of me; like I’d been hit over the head with a sack of potatoes. Had he told me these things when they happened, I could have corrected them immediately!  So, my boss had tolerated average or under-performance all season. I could have been better!  What’s worse, absent was any encouragement that he thought I had the skills or talents to improve.  He wasn’t willing to step out of his comfort zone, which meant he didn’t care for me to be great.   A week later, I left to spend the winter working in Florida.  Before I left, I let my boss know I would not be returning the next season.

This Experience Continues to Be Meaningful to Me (and a Nightmare) for Several Reasons.

1. If we are going to be great, we must give feedback and encouragement (positive and negative). Seek out opportunities to give your team feedback and encouragement. Don’t wait for the annual “sit down” to deliver the sack of potatoes as in my experience. Give them the opportunity to improve now.  This may mean you have to step out of your comfort zone.  It may help to remember “why” you are giving feedback — it’s because, as their coach, you want them to be great.  That positive intent matters. It should influence your approach and the results.

2. Spend time talking about the future.  After my first review, I couldn’t see myself continuing to work there. So I left, and not because of money. When you talk to employees about their performance, include time to paint a picture of the future that includes them – at your company.  Use tools like the Skills Pyramid(TM) to show them the positive outcomes available and set goals to help them get there.

If you do have employees that need some correction, remember to tell them in private. If they are following the wrong path, be honest about the consequences (great coaches always are). But, in being their coach, also show them what the right path looks like.  If they can see a future (that includes you), the chances are much higher they will correct their course and stay to achieve it.

When I think of this topic, I am always reminded that even the best professional athletes have coaches. Someone who has an eager desire to see them maximize their skills and talents.  In industries with high employee turnover, such as trades, it’s sometimes easy to focus on those leaving, and forget about those you have.  In your quest to “Get Out of the Hourglass,” cultivate in yourself this eager desire to see others succeed; to be their coach and give them feedback.  The results lead to greatness!

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