Appreciation, Affirming Feedback and Retention!

According to the Department of Labor in the USA, 64% of working Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated, while Gallup research shows that 70% of working Americans say they receive no praise or recognition on the job.

Is there any reason to suspect that things may be different or better here in the UK? I doubt it. We have a long history of management by exception (managers leaving the good stuff alone and focussing on the problems). Often work is designed so that managers really don’t get to see or hear the good stuff that goes on.

I have played my part in this.

I once helped a call centre to install a piece of software that allowed callers to rate the quality of service provided by the agent. Low scores generated e-mails to team leaders with attached MP3 recordings of the call and invited them to provide coaching to the agent involved where appropriate.

This helped to quickly reduce the number of problem calls.  But it also had the unwanted effect of damaging the perceptions that team leaders had of many of their agents – because the only stuff they saw and heard was bad. Likewise agents started to perceive team leaders as critical, picky and failing to appreciate the good work that was done. No wonder employee retention in the call centre business is low.

Once we changed the software so that team leaders got e-mailed about the great calls as well as the bad ones things in this call centre rapidly got better.

  • Is your job designed to help you to see, appreciate and feedback on the good stuff that your team members do?
  • Have you been trained in how to do this well?
  • Do you spend enough time and effort on it?

Things To Do To Develop Teamwork

I have recently been doing a some work with managers to help them learn how to coach their staff to improve performance. One of the most common topics for coaching was team working. Several managers came up with variations of “I wish I could help so-and-so to be more of a team player.” But few have any idea where to start – other then perhaps providing some team building training. Typically they have started to talk about the need to be more of a team player – but with few positive results.

In helping managers to work out how to coach someone to be a better team player I have found that the first step is to help them to define exactly what behaviours they see (or don’t see) that lead them to draw the inference that so-and-so is not a team-player. I ask them;

“What is it that you see this person do that makes you think they are not a team player?”

This usually releases a whole list of things such as:

  • They often interrupt others in meetings
  • They often don’t listen to other peoples suggestions
  • They say they will do something and then they don’t deliver
  • If they don’t get their way then they don’t get behind the decision.

Making this step from a label (poor team player) to a set of behaviours is the essential key to making progress. They can use feedback around specific behaviours to discourage behaviours that aren’t working – and to encourage those that are.

They can develop SMART goals for coaching that will help them to learn new behaviours and habits that are more conducive to team working. We can coach them to behave differently in key team working contexts. An examples of a SMART goal that I have used in coaching people around this topic is:

“Within 6 weeks at least 2 different managers will mention to me your effectiveness in supporting the work of the team.”

Then, by using coaching and feedback to influence specific behaviours it is possible to significantly improve team working within weeks.