One size does not fit all when it’s time to talk with an employee about her performance shortfalls. Some team members want you to be direct and to the point. Other folks might burst into tears when you point out a typo and ask them to do a better job of proofing their work from now on. The point of constructive criticism is to get an employee to change her behavior. In a recent Harvard Business Review column, Deborah Bright highlights the methods managers can employ to deliver this kind of feedback.
Each person is unique. Remember that the sales rep who’s sitting in your office is motivated by a combination of his inherent personality traits and life experiences. No other person on your team is quite like him. To be most effective, the feedback you give him must be unique, too.
Before you think in terms of feedback, consider what you’ve told this employee in the past. Have you set specific goals for him? For example, is he supposed to make 50 cold calls a week? Is he required to enter contact information for every employee into the CRM? To offer criticism effectively, you need to talk specifics. If he’s having trouble meeting his goals, ask what else is taking up his time. Help him restructure his day so he can make the outgoing calls in an uninterrupted block of time, if that’s what he needs.
You should also point out that his inability to meet his goals could negatively impact the organization in terms of future revenue. Remind him that everyone is in the same boat, and you all work together to achieve the company goals. If this employee is motivate by money, and his compensation is tied to meeting specific objectives like making calls, show him how failing to meet goals impacts his paycheck.
It’s never easy to deliver bad news. Chances are the employee knows there's a problem. He may be hesitating to talk with you about it and is waiting for your feedback. Keep your emotions in check, develop a new plan, and get his buy-in on setting new goals so he can end up where he needs to be.