Whoever developed the term constructive criticism was not familiar with the word oxymoron.
Much as jumbo shrimp are still small in stature and a definite maybe still lacks certainty, there’s simply nothing constructive about criticism doled out to an employee. Yet, as the leader in your practice, it is imperative to evaluate employee performance and gain improvement in areas where they may be lacking. How do you do it? How do you evaluate those on the team regularly—or infrequently—in ways that truly provide feedback without crushing their spirit or curbing their enthusiasm for the position?
“Carefully” might be the best answer, but of course there’s more to the story and here are six solutions.
While criticism creates a cringe for most team members, it’s a necessary component of performance improvement. And feedback isn’t synonymous with criticism—it’s literally a combination of two distinct words: feed and back. Thinking in this manner changes the equation.
Feed information to the employee that he or she can take back to their position and use to develop new skills for better performance. You don’t merely want to tell your office manager that she’s not connecting with the rest of the staff. You want to tell her how to do it better.
You don’t want to merely make the statement that your billing is Mistake City, you want to feed information that includes what the mistakes are, why they might be happening, and how to remove the barriers to better quality outcomes.
Limit the issues
But if your billing person is also your receptionist, scheduler and longtime team member, with multiple performance issues, you’ll need to make some decisions before sharing your evaluation. Confronting a person with a variety of issues is like being a squirrel with a season’s-worth of nuts in your cheeks, smacking both sides of your face, and pummeling them with an explosion. You don’t want to beat the person up or make them so defensive they throw their hands in the air and give up.
Limit the issues in any feedback session, or formal performance appraisal, to one or two in each instance. This may mean you need more than one period of evaluation versus an annual review.
Don’t be the leader who skirts the need for limiting issues by lumping all of them into one less-specific area, such as attitude. Imagine grocery shopping and asking the clerk for some fruit. If you don’t ask for the exact fruit you want, the clerk’s confusion will be the same as that of your employee if you’re not specific in what you’ve determined needs adjusting.
If the employee’s attitude is the problem, tell the team member exactly what he or she is doing—or not doing. You need the muttering to stop. You need the eye-rolls to be part of past behavior. You want snarky comments silenced when they’re in the office, and complaints shared only with you in private. Be specific on the behavior or actions you want and equally specific on what you want discontinued. But first….
Perform the pre-work
The act of being highly specific, particularly on feedback that may be delicate, requires you to do some pre-work. Build rapport first, or you’ll risk crushing their feelings or spirit.
In a small office where everyone knows everyone and is integrated with the community and with patients’ families, it is important to create a connection with those you are developing. You’re not just the boss. You’re their advisor. You’re not just the doctor, you’re their leader.
Before having the conversation about dress code or professional issues of demeanor, build trust first so the employee knows your intent.
Talk to your team members about more than their work duties. Build a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Learn who they are before you intervene with correction regarding their work or behavior, if time allows.
Once you have the trust and respect of your employees, it’s possible to conduct evaluations more frequently. There is an inherent problem with annual evaluations; namely, lag-time. These vehicles are akin to watching a child misbehave at Christmas and then addressing the problem next Easter. Your team members will not respond well to long-term scorekeeping.
Don’t hold the issues in or store them up for the winter. Address what comes up when it happens. To be effective, it requires a leader attentive to small changes, who addresses them swiftly and can correct a behavior or task deficiency in as simple a forum as the hallway.
Done in a casual manner, feedback conversations won’t create the defensiveness of a formal evaluation.
Enjoy the process
Employee evaluations, constructive criticism, and similar feedback can have negative connotations—but they shouldn’t. A leader, even if only one chiropractor working with one employee, must enjoy the process of development. And feedback is best when aiding in growth and improvement.
Hiring those who seek improvement is helpful in the process, but even if that is missing, lead those in your practice to become better people as well as team members. Inspire, engage, motivate, and elevate their skills, while experiencing the delight of watching others grow.
Monica Wofford, CSP, speaks and coaches professionally and owns a training firm. As CEO of Contagious Companies Inc., she works with chiropractic practices, health care, retail, hospitality, and government leaders to develop their leadership skills. For more information on training, coaching or consulting, call 866-382-0121 or visit contagiouscompanies.com.