10.31.14 Issue #660 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Course Correct with Staff
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

From time to time you will be disappointed when one of your staff doesn’t meet performance expectations. It may be something rather small, such as the waste baskets weren’t emptied. It could be more significant – the hygienist didn’t come close to her daily production goals. The biggest challenge in communication occurs when we are under stress and have an expectation that is not met. If we try to talk in the heat of the moment, we can say things that we later regret. Therefore, it is best to wait and think it through. 

At the core of these situations is a timeless management debate…do employees want to do a good job and be productive, or do they want to get by with as little work as possible? The former is more likely to be true most of the time. My experience is that people are inherently good and want to succeed, even if it is not obvious to others. And studies also have shown that the number one factor affecting an employee’s performance is his/her relationship with their boss. Before you do or say anything to the employee, be careful that you are not misjudging his or her actions. Remember that this person is most likely operating from a positive intention, despite falling short of meeting your needs and expectations. Employees need feedback.

Feedback is communication regarding the effect that a person’s behavior has on another individual and/or group. 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. 

Feedback then tells us whether we are ‘on course’ – keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working – or provides us with information to put us back ‘on course’.  The problem is, most people associate the term ‘feedback’ to mean 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 office efficient and profitable.   

Here are some steps for feedback:

1. THINK through the main idea you want to express. Organize supporting thoughts or facts so they lead to your main point. By being concise and clear you increase the likelihood that you have a positive impact and your message will be heard.

2. BE POSITIVE AND CALM. Make good eye contact. Start the conversation by identifying something(s) you sincerely appreciate about the person. Then define the current issue in concrete terms. Address behaviors, not personalities. Be direct in a non-aggressive manner. Stick to the issue at hand. Avoid bringing in other business or old problems.

3. NEGOTIATE. Ask the person for their feedback. By requesting their input, you build a “win-win” atmosphere. Remain non-judgmental. Show concern and avoid interrupting. Listen for main thoughts or ideas, particularly with people who include a lot of detail or tend to ramble. Paraphrase what they have said if you need clarification, or simply to confirm understanding.

Here’s a situation and a script to consider. Imagine you told your Patient Coordinator, Carol, that you don’t want to schedule patients six months in advance any longer. You just found out she is still doing this.

1. Carol, do you have a few minutes to talk? Always ask permission to talk. Be sensitive that the other person may not be available to give you full attention at that time.
2. First, I want to thank you for being so diligent in scheduling patients so we can meet our daily production goals.
3. Do you remember when we discussed the new recall system? Pause to ensure understanding and clarify as needed.
4. I was surprised when I realized that you were still scheduling patients six months out. Can you give me some idea about why you aren’t using the new recall system? Stop and listen. Ask open-ended questions to draw out thoughts and feelings.
5. Was there anything I could have done differently/better to help you? Try to understand it from Carol’s point of view.
6. Let’s talk again in a week and see how you are doing with this. Thanks Carol. 

Recognize that mistakes will happen. That’s how people learn. Be prepared to give consistent and timely feedback, both positive and developmental. Keep your eye on the big picture – a more productive practice. By communicating in this way with employees, you are on the road to increasing quality results!

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

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