If you went around your office and asked each person, “Are you doing a good job?” what would be the answer? Would most people respond by saying either “I don’t know” or “I think so”? And if their answer was, “Yes, I think so,” and your follow-up question was, “How do you know?” would you hear lines such as, “I haven’t been chewed out by my boss lately” or “No news is good news”?
Such answers reveal that most people receive little feedback on their performance until they make a mistake. This is a sad state of affairs. People need feedback on their performance to feel motivated to move toward their goals. Managers know what they want their people to do but many times don’t bother to tell them because they assume people know. This leads to the most commonly used management style in business, often referred to as seagull management. When someone makes a mistake, seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and fly out. Since this is the predominant style of management in organizations, it is no wonder that motivating people is a major organizational problem today!
Can you imagine training for the Olympics with no one telling you how fast you ran or how high you jumped? The idea seems ludicrous, yet many people operate in a vacuum in organizations, not knowing how well they are doing on their jobs. This can lead to what we call decommitment—a change in an employee’s motivation or confidence—which can be one of the biggest challenges managers face.
To avoid this situation as a manager, stop and think about how you would answer the following questions: Are your department and organizational goals clear? Do you talk to your people about performance expectations? Does every person know what a good job looks like? Is anything getting in the way of performance? Are you giving each person regular feedback on his or her performance and behavior?
I often repeat the words of my former colleague Rick Tate, who said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Letting your people know where they stand and how they are doing can help nurture genuine relationships and create job satisfaction all around.