If you read HR blogs, you’ll probably find another post today about performance feedback and effective manager communication. Anyone can do that. Today, I think this might be the only post you read about performance management, effective manager communication and a jailbreak.
First, Kris Dunn had a great piece recently about blaming performance appraisal systems instead of managers for bad feedback. Managers are the key. For you developers out there, KD had a fantastic if, then statement:
IF <your managers suck at giving feedback>/THEN <it doesn’t matter how you deliver feedback, it’s going to suck>
I think most managers dance around tough topics and avoid confrontation like Donald Trump avoids rooms without cameras. The process often fails due to a lack of direct and clear communication. There are other reasons, but that’s a big one.
Then again, sometimes managers go in totally the other direction and share too much, like two managers responding to a jailbreak in St. Louis, after two inmates broke out of the downtown jail and escaped. Out the front window.
Here comes the clear and direct feedback. Check the tweet from the mayor, and then check these quotes from Jeff Rainford, Chief of Staff, and Gene Stubblefield, the city’s commissioner of corrections, on why the inmates escaped:
…one “knuckleheaded corrections officer” did not fully investigate noises coming from their cell, said Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff …a nurse had heard noises coming from the inmate’s cell three times and asked the corrections officer on duty to investigate each time. But the corrections officer never entered the cell, Stubblefield said.
…an inmate explained the noises by saying he was “shadow boxing.” “What was he hitting?” Stubblefield asked, in disbelief. “He never went in the cell. Never went in the cell!” Stubblefield…said there are only two ways for escape — to walk out the front door, or for corrections staff simply not to be watching the inmates. Rainford said Stubblefield has reason to be upset. “He is pissed, and he should be pissed,” Rainford said. “If you hear a ruckus, maybe you should investigate it. It’s really that simple.”
Other than killing this guard publicly (and using the word “ruckus” like Principal Vernon in Breakfast Club), these guys nail it when it comes to being direct. Check the points they hit:
Provide immediate feedback—these quotes and Slay’s tweet are just two hours after someone discovered the inmates were missing.
Be direct—Rainford calls the employee a “knucklehead”—not typical HR talk, but you have to admit the message gets across.
Point out the action or inaction—“He never went in the cell! Never went in the cell!”
Coach the employee on what should have happened—“If you hear a ruckus, maybe you should investigate it.”
So this would have been a decent start on a one on one conversation. It was, however, a public flogging, and that is where HR pros will say that Rainford and Stubblefield could have improved. They threw the guard completely under the bus. I’m not sure how wrong it was-given the severity of the situation, heads were going to roll in public and private.
Regardless, these managers are not avoiding conflict. You wil have to coach them on time and place and refine the message a bit, but they apparently already understand clarity. Just ask the knucklehead guard.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.