Don't Wait to See the Blood
By: Jim Clemmer
Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/
At my youngest daughter's sixth birthday party, a five-year-old boy hit
her on the head. Asked to apologize, he politely refused: "Mr. Clemmer,
I don't apologize unless I see teeth marks or blood."
Many managers don't realize the problems they're creating unless they see
the teeth marks or blood on those with whom they work. The most insensitive
managers are those who lack good feedback systems and refuse to seek input
on how to improve their own performance.
Feedback is as critical to learning and improvement as cake is to a six-year-old's
birthday party. As painful as I find "corrective feedback" and
"suggestions for improvement," they are sources of my best learning
and most profound personal changes.
There are a multitude of ways to gain a true picture of how you and your
management team's actions are viewed through your organization. Here are
Improving personal and organizational performance without constant feedback
is like trying to pin the tail on the donkey when we're blindfolded. Only
through knowing where we are, can we change where we are going
- Run extensive organizational climate surveys at least once a year. Review
the results with the people who completed the survey to clarify their feedback.
Get them involved in making the improvements they're suggesting.
- Spend a long time with people on the front serving lines, production lines
or support offices. You know you're accessible enough when your presence
isn't a royal visit or a special occasion - and when people are comfortable
in challenging management actions and flagging potential problems.
- Hold regular breakfasts ("muffins with management"), lunches
and celebration dinners with front-line teams. Take this time to ask for
feedback, concerns and suggestions. A simple question - "what's the
dumbest thing management asks you to do?" - can produce powerful insights.
- Invite front-line teams to management meetings to show off accomplishments,
provide input to new plans, or assess the state of the organization.
- Use focus groups (a cross-section of front-line performers) to test new
management directions before making grand announcements to everyone. Even
if you press on against the advice of the focus groups, you'll have deeper
insight on how to face the issues the new direction may raise.
- Develop systems, practices and skills to gain continuous feedback on your
leadership effectiveness from the people you lead.
- Get your management team into the habit of committing themselves to personal
plans. Report on leadership actions each of you has taken to signal the
values or priorities the group is espousing. For example, if customer service
improvement is a key goal, all managers should report on the amount of
time they're spending with customers.