by Myles Chadwick

This is a follow up to Gretchen Nelson’s article on Personal Inventory Worksheets – check it out!

Have you ever been called into an unexpected meeting with your boss that turned out to be a reprimand? Does your stomach sink just thinking about it? What about being on the other side of the desk: have you had the experience of calling a team member into your office, asking them to close the door, and seeing their cheeks blush in preparation for the inevitable backlash for something they said, or didn’t say, or did, or didn’t do? When the stage is so often set for humiliation, or at the very least surprise, it seems unrealistic that we might expect feedback to be received as constructive. Most of us have gotten stuck in a rut at some point in our career of only making time to let people know how they are doing when they either make a mistake or do something exceptionally well. In our early days at Emancipet, we felt like we had just enough time and staff to get the job done, conduct annual reviews, and hopefully address performance issues as they arose. Since being summoned “to the office” was not a normal part of anyone’s routine, it led to a feeling of dread when it did happen, which made feedback all that much harder to deliver, and to receive. While no one wanted to be “the bad guy”, managers were still on the hook for holding staff accountable and helping them to learn from their mistakes and grow as people and employees. It was a real conundrum…

…until it wasn’t! It dawned on us that maybe we should start to make feedback, both congratulatory and critical, not only expected, but something that staff at all levels could look forward to. We realized that we were already spending time in unscheduled  “reactive” meetings each month as issues arose, and that maybe scheduling everyone for a “proactive” meeting once a month would yield better results. In this approach instead of waiting for a problem to crop up with staff, we planned for one or two. Plus, we would have the added benefit of meeting and connecting with everyone on the team – not just the ones who needed to work on their performance. We began holding ourselves accountable to a monthly check-in process at every level in the organization and the concept is simple: everyone that works at Emancipet sits down with their manager once a month to discuss their progress professionally, personally, and to generally “check-in”. This became an opportunity for employees to talk about their goals, what energizes them, what drains them, and ask for advice. This also served as an opportunity for our supervisors to commend progress, provide feedback, and give guidance.

Now, you may be thinking: ain’t nobody got time for that! And you are probably right. You probably do not have an extra hour every month for each one of the people that you support to sit down and casually talk about their experience in the world. And even though you are probably right, we would say you still have to do it. The time is there, somewhere, and in the long run creating the time to connect with your team members, one on one, eye to eye, outside of an immediate, task oriented environment, will reward you (and your staff) many times over. We know it has paid off for us:

  • Our employees are more engaged because they are reminded that their manager really cares about them as a person.
  • Turnover has declined because we are able to work out small issues during coaching sessions before they become big issues.
  • Our highest performing employees are happier because they receive as much attention as employees that are struggling.
  • We have very little drama between employees because people trust their supervisors enough to talk about issues and hear feedback about how they might address them.
  • Most importantly, we realized that once this process had been in place for a while we had less performance issues to address, more praise to deliver, and felt more connected to our teams – because they felt more connected to us!

Try out our Monthly Check-In Form; it pairs nicely with our Personal Inventory Worksheet! You do not have to use a form to check-in, but it is a good idea to keep a record of your conversations – sending a summary email afterwards works great. This will help you keep track of where you are with each person you support from month to month and will also serve to let you look back at how far they have come since you started making this time for them. So, if you are not already doing some sort of monthly check-in with your team members, don’t wait to start. The first couple of check-ins might feel a little awkward but we promise that they get easier – you will even start to look forward to them!


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