For many agency owners, giving team members constructive feedback, growth goals, and course correcting bad habits and behavior is not easy. That’s partially because we often do the work that the employee needs to do.

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute, this week coming to you from Tampa, Florida. Now, we were on site with an agency today, and one of the things we’re talking about was how do we help employees get better at their job. And one of the mistakes, I think, a lot of agency owners make, especially right now when it’s so hard to hire and retain staff, is that we kind of passively-aggressively talk about someone’s skills when they need to improve or we sort of hint at where we would like them to get better. We don’t point-blank say, “You know what? You’re great at this, you’re great at this, but here’s a skillset that I absolutely need you to have in the job that you have. And here’s where you’re dropping the ball, here, here, and here. So what I want you to do is I want you to come back to me with a plan of how you’re going to get better or develop this skillset. Then we’re going to review the plan together. I’m going to make some suggestions. We’re going to invest the next 30 to 60 days in really improving this particular skill,” being very specific about what you need and what you want, and inviting your employee to bring you part of the solution. So odds are the plan are going to bring you of how they’re going to learn how to do something or stop doing something or do something at a different level. It may not be all that you wanted to be, but what you want them to do is you want them to be thinking about it on their own before you just tell them what to do. You want them to soak in the problem and think about the problem and invest in how they’re going to help you solve the problem prior to you being able to say, “You know what? I think the plan is 60% there, but I want to add this component or that component,” or, “I want to check in more often,” or whatever it is. But what we can’t keep doing is we can’t keep pussyfooting around the topic of, “You know what? You need to be better at some aspect of your job.” I get that right now you are so relieved to have anybody in a position, that you don’t want to rock the boat. But keeping an employee who’s mediocre at something, who is not delivering at the level that they want without being really clear about how they can be good and improve so that they are acceptable in their job, honestly, that’s doing the agency a disservice and it’s doing the employee a disservice. Because what’s going to happen is you’re going to get more and more frustrated, and then eventually what you’re going to do is you’re going to end up just letting them go or you’re going to passively- aggressively manage them which, as you know, many of you do rather than just being point-blank with them about what needs to get better. So if you have an employee who is not delivering at the level you need them to deliver at, sitting down and having a very concrete conversation about what it is that you need them to be better at or to stop doing or whatever it is, and what success looks like, and then asking them to actually create the learning plan, the change-of-habit plan, whatever it may be, and bringing it back to you for your input and approval, is a great way to tell them how important it is that they improve or get better at this aspect of their job, that it’s critical for them to keep their job, that they get better at this, and to allow them to participate in coming up with part of the solution for how they’re actually going to get better. So, no passive-aggressive, no hinting at it. Just go right at it, again, with “Radical Candor,” great book if you haven’t read it, with radical candor, with kindness and respect but also with clarity and language that there is no misunderstanding around, that you’re being very clear about where they need to improve and that you want them to be part of the solution of how to improve. All right? More direct contact, more clarity, less tiptoeing around or hinting at, and at the end of the day, less sort of passive- aggressive management style, a more direct management style which will greatly improve the odds of that employee getting better and sticking around for a longer period of time. All right? Hopefully, that’s helpful. I’ll see you next week!

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