AFTER THOUGHT : How to Tell it Straight

Help. I manage group of eight people and hate giving negative feedback to them. I know I need to do this sometimes but I still find it very hard.

Giving feedback is an important part of manager’s job so get used to it. The problem is, many people still see it as telling people they’re not doing things right and getting them to change. Maybe this comes from early schooling or parenting. Who knows? But it’s all very negative and doesn’t get us anywhere. The person giving the negative feedback doesn’t enjoy it and neither does the person on the receiving end.
It’s important for you to get your head round why giving feedback is an important part of your job. I reckon there are three main reasons. First up (and this is pretty straightforward) managers and staff are there to implement strategies and business plans. So if people are off track they need to know. Simple as that. And they also need to be able to work out how to get back on track – which may require support.
This is both the individual employee’s and the manager’s responsibility. So throw out the idea that feedback is all about you carping on about people doing wrong stuff. It’s often just case of identifying where people are against plans and what action they need to take to remain on target.
Secondly, feedback is to do with recognition and engagement. You can bet your bottom dollar that whenever organisations carry out climate or culture surveys, one of the standout findings will be that people feel they need more recognition. critical stage in person choosing to commit and engage further with an organisation is that they need to feel that it is worth doing what they do and that their efforts are recognised. This means that your feedback is important. It communicates recognition to the employee and helps them meet their personal needs.
The third reason you should give feedback is to help your people develop and learn. It’s simple fact that human beings learn best from practical experience. As manager you can play an important coaching role. See it in terms of helping your people focus on what they have been doing and recognise where things have gone well or not so well.
Prompt and listen to them. The idea is to help them explore situations and work out ways to learn and develop their performance. Don’t just focus on when things don’t go well. Make sure you look at what is working successfully as well.

I’m always hearing about developing leadership skills. I’d have thought that leaders are born rather than developed. What’s the difference between leadership and management?

Good question. Put simply, leadership is about conceiving vision and strategy, and engaging people into wanting to achieve it. Management is more focused on implementing defined strategy through achieving objectives.
They are related but at different ends of the spectrum. Most people in most roles need both of them to some extent but the balance varies. You’d hope, for example, that chief executive had good leadership attributes and also pretty good handle on management. new supervisor, on the other hand, would need some leadership qualities but there’d be greater emphasis on good management skills.
It’s important for any manager to have an understanding of both the practical and theoretical side of management. They need to have actually tried out variety of managerial roles and situations and also have read and studied management theory.
Having good understanding of your own organisation’s operations and also being aware of the external factors affecting it are essential if you want to be an effective manager. You also need good grasp of business disciplines other than your own. Good managers must also have acquired toolbox of personal management skills in areas such as giving presentations, interpersonal communication and business writing.
The key attributes for good leader tend to centre around human resource and personal skills and can often be innate. Don’t be fooled into thinking they can’t be practised and developed deliberately. Key leadership attributes include being capable of conceiving strategic vision for the organisation or department so that other people can see where things need to head. good leader also tends to be reasonably demanding of others and themselves. They also tend to persist in positive way to achieve strategic goals.
On the personal side they’re often able to look honestly at what they are thinking and what is happening and learn from this. They tend to be fairly comfortable with ambiguity, don’t become frustrated but just keep moving on. Finally, they can engender trust in others and build relationships. This means they can develop the people around them to high degree.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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