Developing your employees is among the most important responsibilities of your credit union’s leadership. Helping employees to grow, learn and evolve requires a continuum of communication. Providing productive feedback is essential to the mix. These conversations can revolve around achievements, strengths, and behaviors that management wants to reinforce and encourage. Alternatively, there are behaviors that managers need to coach employees to change. Mastering the art of feedback conversations is a skill that can and must be learned by managers and regularly practiced. Indeed, feedback done well is like watering your garden. It is needed for employee growth and must be provided regularly.
When there is trust between management and employees, feedback has the best chance of working well. Trust is fostered when a manager lets employees know they want them to develop the best in themselves. Trust is built when managers really listen by keeping their eyes and ears open to assessing the situation and truly hearing what’s on someone’s mind. In practicing the art of feedback, managers should strive to get a sense of the employee’s mindset, as mindset is important in pre-planning these feedback conversations. People with a “growth” mindset believe their talent is not fixed and innate, but that success results from hard work and learning. They are receptive to feedback and they will even seek it out to hasten their growth process. Conversely, someone with a fixed mindset may have an underlying belief that their abilities and talent are fixed, innate and immutable. That person may not even be aware of this underlying belief, but it can cause them to see feedback as criticism rather than an opportunity to grow. When managers affirm, through positive feedback, the employee’s ability to learn and grow, it has a positive trust-building effect, and over time the person’s mindset can shift to one of growth.
Positive feedback focuses on achievement and what went right, while developmental feedback concentrates on behaviors that need to change. Various studies place the optimal ratio of positive to developmental feedback at differing levels, but all studies advise overweighting positive feedback. Many companies find an optimal ratio at about 3 positive feedback interactions to each developmental one.
Regular conversations are a must. The more frequent the high-quality interactions between managers and employees is, the higher the level of employee engagement. These interactions do not always need to be 30-minute meetings. They can be quick and occur in-person, by phone, or even text. The frequency and quality matters more than the length. When giving developmental feedback, the manager should assure that the recipient is in the best possible position to hear it. For example, the time of day can have an effect. When a person is fresh and alert they are better able to hear information about areas that need strengthening or behaviors that must change, rather than when their energy levels are low due to fatigue, stress or even hunger before lunchtime.
Engaged employees mean better member service and stronger financial performance. When credit union leaders strive to master the art of employee feedback, and practice it regularly in a high-quality manner, they reinforce a culture of trust and they foster engagement in their employees.