Have you ever worked for a leader who always zeroed in on what was wrong about a process or a project? If we follow every praise with a “but…” or if every discussion turns into a critical evaluation, our teammates begin to dread interacting with us. Eventually, they quit asking for feedback (if they can avoid it). And finally, they simply shut down.
There is nothing wrong with striving for continuous improvement. It’s all in how we go about getting it. You can’t instill a desire for excellence by always highlighting what’s lacking. Excellence is inspired, not enforced.
- Get out of the office. You must interact with people in order to lead them, so get out of your office and walk the halls. Talk to your team and find ways to connect with them. If you lead within a manufacturing facility, get out on the floor. If the only time you show up is when there is a problem, then you have a problem.
- Lift people up. When you are walking the halls or the facility floor, Do it with the desire to catch people doing right. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t redirect and coach, but your overall intent should be to connect and encourage.
- Coach before writing up. I’ve learned a lot about “write ups” and “performance improvement plans” among my clients this year, and I understand the necessity for both. However, sometimes we rely on these procedures as tools to help our people identify and fix their deficiencies. Pointing out what someone is doing wrong isn’t leading, and neither is giving them an official paper that lists action items and corresponding dates intended to force improvement. Instead, teach. Give the why behind their need to change. Find out where the breakdown is – Lack of understanding? Skills? Motivation and desire? Then coach to that, and check in frequently for improvements.
How have you caught your people doing right this week?