10.9.09 Issue #396 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Develop a Culture of Feedback in Your Office

As the dental leader and CEO of your practice, you are responsible for assessing important business data – what is your revenue to expense ratio for the month? What is your current production level and how can you increase collections? However, are you using the same rigor to evaluate your company’s most important capital: employee performance?

While all businesses today have a multitude of initiatives to improve performance, Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of GE, says employee engagement has to come first. "No company, small or large, will perform in the long run without energized employees who believe in its vision and understand what they need to do to achieve it." In fact, he says "employee engagement is the best measure of the health of a company."

To get that kind of engagement requires feedback. The term “feedback” was originally borrowed from electrical engineering. In the field of rocket science, for example, each rocket has a built-in apparatus that sends messages to a steering mechanism on the ground. When the rocket is off target, these messages come back to the steering mechanism that in turn makes adjustments and puts the rocket back on target again. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the parallels between launching missiles and leading employees. Your mission is to keep your staff on track with your practice vision. Feedback is the best way to ensure that your team is soaring toward practice goals. It is communication regarding the effect that a person’s behavior has on another individual and/or group.

Feedback tells people whether they are “on course” – keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working – or redirects them back “on course.” The problem is most people associate the term “feedback” with criticism, rather than information.  As such, it is met with reluctance or anxiety, or simply avoided. Yet the process of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important communication tools you have to keep your employees efficient and productive.    

As an Adjunct Faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, I have learned an excellent model for giving feedback. CCL has developed a feedback technique that is called S-B-I, an acronym for Situation-Behavior-Impact. When you use this model, you provide information so that the recipient knows whether they are “on track” or need to modify their behavior because it is not effective.

There are three components of the SBI model. The first is to describe the situation in which the action occurred. Be specific with date, time, and location. You want to capture the details so the person recalls the situation.

The next step is to articulate the exact behavior(s). This is essential and it requires a bit more thought than it might seem. Our tendency is to abbreviate and categorize what other people do. That leads to judgmental and critical messages. Describing Carol as lazy does not provide clear, tangible direction over which you have influence. “Carol is lazy” should be translated into “Carol needs to be more punctual with the weekly report.” In this way, you and Carol have a starting point and something that can be measured. No generalities - only specific, observable behavior.

The final step in the SBI model is to convey the effect that the other person’s behavior had on you. It might be feelings you had and/or outcomes that happened as a result of the person’s action. Practice giving positive SBI feedback first so you will become more skilled and familiar with the model. Be specific. Drive-by praise without behavioral examples is ineffective. Strengthen “great job” with concrete details such as “Thank you for taking quick action and filling the schedule when we had a cancellation this morning. It really made a difference in our daily production rate.

Here’s an example of a developmental SBI to your chronically tardy employee:

“Sara, you were late to the morning huddle twice this week. We had already reviewed the daily schedules by the time you arrived, but we had to go over it again for you. This was frustrating for me and your co-workers, and it delayed the team from starting the day.”

Delivering quality developmental feedback will take preparation on your part. Plan your words and your delivery. The more you build effective feedback on specific actions, the more your employees will benefit from your improved leadership in this area. Annual appraisals are insufficient for employee development. I strongly urge you to conduct monthly reviews with each member of your team. Even “star employees” need to meet with you at least once per quarter so they know that you value and appreciate them. Whether you are praising stellar performance or monitoring a problem employee, good feedback is behaviorally specific.

You can learn to give feedback well. You must practice to improve your skill level until the complex process of putting together all of this material becomes second nature. Build a climate of feedback in your office. Help your employees achieve the overriding mission – to be successful in their careers and in your office!

To assist you in building skills in feedback, read the new Ideas into Action Guidebooks published by the Center for Creative Leadership and offered through the McKenzie website.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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