4.2 Giving Feedback to Your Employees
Someone outside of the group says something about someone on your team that needs correcting, and now you've built up this relationship as their friend and you have to go back and tell them this kind of hard-to-tell news. You want to, going back to what I was talking about previously with communication, really over-communicate, let people know how well they're doing on a regular basis. And he had a really good talent of breaking that down in a way that other people outside the group who don't necessarily spend their days looking at data were able to actually understand it.
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Hi everyone, my name is Tim Keef, and I am the director of marketing and communications here at UCI Extension. I wanted to talk a little bit about difficulties or challenges in managing people. I have been in a managerial role for roughly eight years. And I have been responsible for leading groups of people from all sectors of industries. And I have managed groups of people from 2 people all the way up to 15. And I think managing is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can do in their professional career for several reasons. One is, you get to work with a group of people who come from different backgrounds, have different personality types, and have different ways of doing things in the workplace. And you get to lead that group towards a common goal that is set forth by, not only the department, but also the organization as a whole. Also, on an individual level, it’s great to be a mentor and a teacher to the individuals on your team. And you get to have this great impact in where they take their professional career, and also where they go personally. And on top of that, it’s also fun to build strong bonds with your team. And to have all the fun things like team outings and things like that. So, it’s very, very rewarding for those reasons and many more. On top of that, there’s also several challenges to managing a group of people. Going back to what I said about the varying personality types, different backgrounds, different work styles, I think getting everyone on the same page, working towards that common goal, can be something that’s particularly tricky, especially from a managerial standpoint. I think one of the things that I learned early on in my career is that over-communication can be a good thing. And that doesn’t necessarily mean micromanaging, because I don’t think anyone really likes to be micromanaged. But I think communicating with your team, letting them know what the goals for the organization and your department are, I think that goes a long way in kind of bringing everyone together and helping those different personality types mesh, basically. I had a boss earlier on in my career who used to have weekly meetings with the team, and they were an hour long each. And we’d go around the table and everyone would talk all the various things they were doing and what’s been going on in their workplace at that time. I think looking back on it, it was a fantastic thing because it kept everyone on the same page. And everyone knew what every other part of the unit was doing. But I think at the time, I really looked at that as this thing that kind of dragged on and it kind of became this thing that everyone dreaded doing because you had to come up with something to say. But I think now as a manager, when I apply that to my own team, it gives everyone an opportunity to come to the table and talk about what they’re working on. And it also kind of puts the onus on the employee a little bit to come to the table with something. That way no one thinks that so and so is not working on something, or they don’t know what they’re working on. And I think on top of that, another way to communicate with the team is with these ongoing meetings is also have individual one-on-one meetings with every member of your team. There’s certain people who find it very uncomfortable or aren’t necessary comfortable with sharing in a group environment, and they can get a little nervous. The individual meetings allow you to have that opportunity to speak with someone one-on-one and kind of troubleshoot some of the issues that might be going on. And I think, one of the things that over-communicating, and I’m going to call it over-communicating, but really over-communicating, what that does with a team, is it allows those varying personality types to come together more often. So everyone knows what everyone else is doing at any given time. Another challenge I have, and I actually think me personally this is one of the more challenging things that a supervisor has to do, is provide positive criticism or constructive feedback. And this is on a one-on-one level with any of my employees. And I think this is difficult because there’s a multitude of reactions that can come up when you’re giving someone feedback or criticism. Most of the time I always get a positive feedback. Yes, I want to work on this. This is something that I’ve recognized in myself, and it’s something that I want to learn and grow with. But then you also get the other reactions which are, and I’ve had all of these, anger, there’s embarrassment. People are embarrassed because they feel like they’re not doing well and they’re underperforming in their boss’ eyes. And there’s also tears, had that. One of the things that I found very, very helpful in delivering positive criticism or constructive feedback is to really highlight the things that this employee has brought to the organization and the group. And the things that they have brought that are very positive, the work that they do that’s really, really strong. So I always try to lead in when I’m having these meetings with my employees, with the aspects of their jobs that they do a really, really good job of. And then let them know that there are some things that they need to work on. And I think at that point, it’s really easy to come up with a plan with the employee to say, eight out of ten things in your job are doing very, very well. Everyone’s happy with it. I’ve heard things from people outside of this group, that that stuff you work on is phenomenal. But, here’s a couple of things we need to work on, and let’s spend the next couple of months trying to course correct those things. And I think the challenge is, in a manager, is that while they’re different personality types with employees, different managers have different personality types too. So, one of the mistakes I feel like I made early on in my career is that I always wanted to be everyone’s best friend. I wanted my employees to love me and think that I was the best thing ever, and for a while it worked out very well. And what happens with that is, now you’re friends with all your employees and something happens. Someone outside of the group says something about someone on your team that needs correcting, and now you’ve built up this relationship as their friend and you have to go back and tell them this kind of hard-to-tell news. And I think that can be a challenge. And I think there is a fine line between being everyone’s best friend, but also being this coach in a way. Letting them know that they need things to work on, and I think that can be in particularly challenging. One thing about that is, if you don’t let people know what they need to correct early on, things can kind of faster and they can manifest to a point where it becomes a long-term issue that’s much harder to course correct. And you don’t want that to come up in someone’s review only. You want to, going back to what I was talking about previously with communication, really over-communicate, let people know how well they’re doing on a regular basis. I think that helps with everyone knowing what they’re working towards, that they’re doing a good job, that their efforts are appreciated. But then also taking some of that time to coach them and really work on bringing out the best aspects of what they do on a day to day basis. One instance where I had to provide constructive feedback or positive positive criticism, and it was particularly difficult, was with a business or marketing analyst that I had at my team several years ago. He was a phenomenal analyst, gave really good analytical insight into everything, every aspect of the business. And I know that everyone outside of the marketing group really appreciated the work he did, and he was able to really create these reports that everyone was able to understand. But aside from that, he was kind of difficult to work with. He was just a difficult personality. And I think other people outside of the team who didn’t know him so well had these kind of misconceptions of how he was. And I think his emails to people outside the team, and sometimes other communication aspects in medians and such, kind of made him come across as a little aggressive. And I had a couple of incidents where people talked to me about it. And they were feeling a little bit like he was attacking them. Or, being a little aggressive like I said. And I think I had to come up with a way to break that down to him. And let him know that he needed to improve upon his communication style. And what I did, and I think this goes back to me wanting to initially be friends with everyone, is I took it from a friendly standpoint. I sat down with him, discussed everything that he does positive. All the positive contributions that he has toward the organization. I let him know, and this was the truth, that all of the analytical analysis, or the analysis that he provided, was some of the best that I’ve ever seen. And he had a really good talent of breaking that down in a way that other people outside the group who don’t necessarily spend their days looking at data were able to actually understand it. But aside from that, he had some areas of improvement to work with, and I think that had to do with his communication style, so I let him know about that. I didn’t pinpoint people. I didn’t say so and so said this, or, I heard this from so and so. I just let him know that when you send emails out, they don’t necessarily carry through the emotion of the typer or the sender. So, if he could soften up his approach with emails, even add thanks at the bottom of the emails or thank you, that might help quite a bit. And I think, with some of the bigger projects he was working on, especially with the people that had the issues with him, I didn’t want to micromanage too much. But, if I knew that he was working with those people, I would kind of ask him to send me the email first. And then I would kind of help him massage the text a little bit. I wanted to have him share those communications with me so I could help him work on his communication style with those other parties. And it actually helped out quite a bit because he started to learn that if he started using things like, hi so and so, here’s the message, thank you, blah blah blah. It worked in his favor a lot, and people responded much more favorably to his requests or his emails. So I think we were able to kind of nip that one in the bud a little bit. He still was a phenomenal analyst, and then he started improving upon his communication skills with people inside the organization. So, in closing, I think, as a manager, a couple of things I find to be very challenging, but also kind of rewarding to work with, are communication with your team and really making sure that those communication channels are open, free-flowing. That everyone knows what everyone else is working on. And mitigating the inner department frustrations that can kind of come from different personality types. And two, providing positive criticism or constructive feedback to employees and the challenges that can come from that. Thank you very much, and good luck in your educational journey.
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