What? No Feedback?

Apart from the dozens of strange management practices I noticed back in the Philippines, one that keeps coming up is the lack of proper feedback.

A lof of managers, here in the country, do not provide feedback or they do not do it properly. When asked about how their teams are performing they a quick to blame their staff for poor performance.

Having the opportunity to observe different managers from different nationalities while working abroad, they take feedback very seriously. It works both ways, they seek feedback and they are very good at providing timely feedback.

The key to great performance is great feedback. We will not be certain how we are performing if not for feedback. Our staff will not have a clue how they are performing if feedback was not provided on a timely manner.

Here in the Philippines, I have observed many managers hold back on providing feedback. They complain to peers and superiors but do not bother providing feedback to the person involved. The opposite are managers that provide feedback in the form of shouting and degrading their staff. Even worse, sometimes these negative approach is done in public.

It is no wonder why our employee performance is below par of other countries. Poor employee performance is seen so clearly in the quality of customer service our companies provide. Our managers are not properly trained on how to provide good and timely feedback.

I keep emphasizing timely. Imagine that you conducted a very important sales presentation to key executives of your top customer. Your manager was in the room with you. After the presentation, everyone shakes each other’s hands and leaves the meeting room. You wait for your manager to provide his feedback but he was busy packing his things to rush off to the next meeting. A week later, you still did not get any feedback. Two months later, after the customer has decided, your manager gives you his feedback. At this point, what’s the point? Proper feedback must be timely.

The second key to an effective feedback is a proper method. There is a simple method called the sandwich approach. It’s quite simple. First, find something good to compliment your subordinate. Then, deliver the constructive feedback. Third, end with a positive message. Study shows that the emotions of people are influenced most by the tail end of an event. If our feedback ends on a positive note, that’s the emotion that the recipient will bring with him or her. Of course, along with the constructive feedback.

Remember Timely & Effective Sandwich Feedback equals better performance.

Use this formula and improve your team’s performance.

Email Bermuda Traingle

Emails are very powerful communication tools for everyday work. What gets to me is the way we treat emails here in the country. After coming back from twenty years working abroad, I found out that there is an “email Bermuda Triangle” in the country. It spans from Luzon to Mindanao. What do I mean? From my own personal experience, more than half the emails I send seems to hit the email Bermuda Triangle. The emails are never to return. No acknowledgement, no replies. Nothing. When I asked around, it is clearly a common phenomenon.

What strikes me as amazing is that the Bermuda Triangle happens at all levels of the organization from the CEO (which can be understandable) all the way to a new hire (which is curious).

In my previous career, the CEO of an 8,000 employee Bank with over $25B in annual revenues replies to his emails within 48 hours. Our CEO at the time, Abdulkarim, understands and respects the effort that an employee or customer put into sending him an email. He reciprocates by replying, forwarding the email to the right person copy the sender or responding with ‘noted’.

Managing emails is not rocket science. A few tips can get us better process this important communication medium.

* Always respond quickly. Why should a simple reply take so long?
* Write crisp emails, every word should count. Do not confuse or bore your recipient.
* Try and handle each email only once. Going back to emails more than once sometimes delays the response unnecessarily.
* Process emails Last In First Out. Keep at it until there are no more new emails.
* Be an intelligent router or sharer. Sometimes we get interesting information that others can benefit from. Share.
* Make it easy for recipients to understand the reason for the email. Clearly state what action is required from the email. If there is no action needed then clearly say it’s FYI or ‘For your Information’.
* Schedule your email processing. Don’t keep your email application open on your screen all the time. Remove the email alerts as well. Personally, I schedule reading my email at a specific time in the morning and then in the afternoon. That’s it. I visit it again only when I have free time in between.

We hope that this week’s management tips helps you and your team. Please feel free to pass it on.

Millennials are here to stay

Yes, they are here to stay. What options do we have if we want to sustain our companies in the coming years? Baby boomers are thinning out. Generation X have about 10-15 years left. Let’s face it, there are not a lof of viable options.

Coming from the Generation X, I personally saw major differences in the work ethics of my generation and the generation Y or Millennials. I was even put in a difficult position when speaking to a group of Gen X and Ys for a water distribution company. I was invited to speak about Managing our Millennial workforce. Before even starting the talk, you could already feel the tension in the room. As the attendees walked into this huge meeting room, you will already notice the divide. Employees from Generation X started grouping together on the left side of this massive meeting table. The Millennials naturally gravitated to the other side.

As I did my talk, there was so much nervous energy in the air that people seem so controlled with the questions they asked. In the end, when I thought that it was over, the most senior executive from the Generation X side of the room raised her hand. She asked permission to raise one final question. I graciously said, ‘yes please’. Her question was ‘which generation was better? Generation X or Millennials?’ There was an extended silence in the room. I was caught off-guard with her question. After carefully crafting the answer in my mind, I replied ‘both generation had their strengths and weaknesses. However, if we can combine the passion and creativity of the Millennials with the experience of the Gen X then we will have a great work environment.’

There are a few fundamental problems in today’s workforce when it comes to multigenerational employees. The first mistake that comes to mind is that we label our workforce and it becomes ‘us vs them’. Employees are employees regardless of generation. Once we start labelling then we start creating a rift between the two.

The second fundamental problem is that both generations expect the other to make the first move to adjust. Like in chess we get a stalemate. Nobody will make the first move to accommodate the other. My advice? Let the more mature generation do the first move.

The third fundamental problem is that Generation X employees always refer to their experience. ‘In my days, this was the way we did things.’ I was in another Millennial talk for an organization of surgeons. At the end of the talk there was a heated debate between two Doctors. They were both in-charge of training future surgeons for their hospital.

The elder Doctor was clearly upset how Millennial doctors could not handle the rigor of their internship. He was complaining that the new generation of doctors did not bother with the long hours and the classroom type training. Their intern doctors had a turnover rate of over 80%. He was complaining that it is very expensive to train doctors through their internship program and the high turnover was not acceptable.

The younger Doctor expressed that his hospital too was in a similar predicament. However, since they were bleeding money as high potential doctors jump ship in the middle of their intern program, they decided to revisit how they were doing things. They started adjusting their program to suit Millennial doctors. Their intern attrition went down from a dangerous double digit to single digits. Clearly, they started doing something right.

The elder Doctor expressed his outrage as to why age old traditions in Medicinal training should be changed. The younger Doctor simply replied with a smile “If we did not change then we will not have any future doctors in the Hospital. This means that in a few years’ time, we may need to close the hospital.

With that, the elder doctor sat down but still indignant.

Regardless of how we feel about Millennials, they are here to stay. The question is how will we understand them so we can manage them better.