5 Ways Great Managers Give Feedback (And the Best Way to Receive It)
Offer feedback that motivates employees, improves their performance.
The other day I saw an interview with Magic Johnson. Magic was talking about his coach, Pat Riley. He said that Riley was a great coach because he provided honest feedback. Riley yelled at Magic just like everyone else. He corrected his mistakes and provided honest analysis and feedback.
Now, I’m not insinuating that Magic Johnson or the Los Angeles Lakers were successful only because feedback was given (I’m sure skill had a lot to do with it). But what I am suggesting is that a constant stream of objective feedback helps any organization – auto shop or NBA team – improve.
If you’re an owner or a manager, you have to give feedback to your employees. It is a fact of running a business. If an employee is struggling to treat customers with respect, you need to give feedback. If an employee is failing to book appointments over the phone, you need to give feedback. If an employee is doing a shoddy job on repairs, you need to give feedback. If you’re noticing a pattern of laziness or slacking off, you need to give feedback.
But here’s the big question: How do you give feedback?
We’re going to provide you with some tips and real-life examples of how automotive businesses are putting these tips into practice.
• Provide analysis, not opinion. Opinions can make an employee defensive. Factual analysis is much better than opinion. But here’s the problem: analysis is a lot more difficult to give than an opinion. Why? Because analysis requires standards. It requires previously agreed upon goals and benchmarks. Opinions don’t. For example, if an employee is doing a shoddy job on repairs, it is easy to say, “You are doing a bad job.” It is harder to say, “You know, we need to have oil changes done in 15 minutes but you are consistently taking around 25 minutes.”
Analysis takes the discussion from “personal” to “factual.”
One of the things our new tool, LogMyCalls, allows you to do is listen to employee customer interactions and then provide objective feedback on those interactions. Customer calls are recorded. Then you can log in to LogMyCalls and simply listen to the calls and leave feedback about your employee’s phone performance. Did they answer the phone in a cheerful way? Did they make an appointment? These are not subjective opinions, they are questions based in objective analysis.
Additionally, LogMyCalls allows you to set up scorecards and actually grade your employees’ performance on the phone. These scorecards are objective, meaning that analysis, not opinions, are provided.
• Be specific – Feedback cannot be general or unfocused. Feedback is effective when – and only when – it is specific.
It is much more effective to say, “Yesterday I noticed you took a very long lunch; in fact, I’ve noticed that you’ve taken a long lunch every day this week,” than it is to say “You haven’t worked very hard this week.”
It is effective to say, “Yesterday I logged in to LogMyCalls and listened to a call you answered around noon. I noticed you didn’t ask the customer to come in to the shop.” This is different than if you said, “You don’t do a good job on the phone,” which would be too general and wouldn’t help the employee improve.
When we help companies set up their scorecards in LogMyCalls, we always encourage them to make the grading criteria as specific as possible. For example:
• Did the employee use his/her name when answering the phone?
• Did the employee ask for the customer’s name?
• Did the employee ask an open-ended question to the caller?
• Did the employee ask the caller directly to make an appointment?
Notice that each of these criteria is very specific. There is no way they could be misinterpreted or confused. The employee either did these things or they didn’t. This is specific, fact-based analysis rather than general opinion.
• Focus on the positive – People respond to compliments better than anything else. When was the last time you praised an employee? When was the last time you made them feel like they did a great job? (Most managers can’t remember the last time).
Focusing on the positive will build goodwill with your employees and, in most cases, will get them to work harder.
One of our clients has a reward system built in to their call monitoring and call scoring system. When employees score more than 80 percent on a scorecard for a week, they get a gift card or the boss buys pizza for the employees. (Our data shows that you are three times more likely to get an appointment when a call score is more than 80 percent). You want to provide incentives and encourage excellent performance.
Remember: Just because you are providing feedback doesn’t mean feedback has to be negative.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. – Why do your employees consistently sound rushed and rude when they’re on the phone with customers? Why are they making mistakes in the shop? Before you blow up at them or criticize, you should think about things from their perspective. Maybe you are understaffed. Maybe you are understaffed at certain times of the day and a simple adjustment of lunch breaks would fix the problem. Maybe you need to hire someone just to answer the phone so your techs can focus on cars.
Another one of our clients in the collision world uses LogMy Calls to help them with staffing. The program shows them the “Peak Call Times” during the day. They found that their calls spiked significantly between 11 a.m. and noon. Prior to LogMyCalls, this was the hour when many employees were taking breaks and going to lunch. Now the owner leaves his staff in the shop until the afternoon when calls slow down.
• Be consistent – Hopefully, you agree by now that feedback is vitally important. But here’s the problem: Too many businesses give effective feedback for a few weeks and then it fizzles out. Nothing changes for the long term. This is bad, so be consistent with your feedback.
Receiving Feedback and Improving 1% Everyday
As an employee, it is difficult to receive feedback. But remember, without feedback there would be no improvement.
As an employee, view feedback as an opportunity to improve and get better. You know you aren’t perfect. In fact, you probably know precisely what your strengths and weaknesses are. Feedback is simply a way for a manager to help you make changes.
You are probably familiar with Thomas Edison. He conducted more than 3,000 experiments to perfect the incandescent light bulb. He was using these failures as feedback. This feedback helped him improve and eventually succeed.
Here’s another way to think about feedback: accepting feedback and making small, incremental improvements each day results in huge improvements within just one year. Feedback given and received correctly results in many small improvements. And small, continuous improvements make a big difference.
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2012, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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