Your team can make or break your company. So what do you do when a valued employee isn't living up to expectations or performing to their full potential? Fourteen entrepreneurs from YEC share the best ways to deliver constructive feedback or criticism.
1. Find out what it is about their job that isn't living up to their expectations.
Make the conversation about what that employee wants for his/her future. What type of career do they want? What do they think are their strengths and weaknesses? If you can frame it in a way that prioritizes getting the most out of their potential, they will be much more receptive to your concerns about their current productivity.--Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind
2. Use the sandwich technique.
When you have to criticize someone for any reason, always say something nice to begin with, then provide a bit of constructive criticism before ending with something else positive. It works every time.--Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive
3. Use the "2 ears, 1 mouth" approach.
My granddad advised, "You've got 2 ears, 1 mouth. So listen double." First, ask the employee to self-evaluate. Their answer tells you if they're honest or delusional. Many times they'll suggest a solution. They'll commit to an internal solution far more than anything you'd suggest. When it's my turn, I commend one thing they feel they're doing well. Then I dig in with where they must improve. -Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority
4. Schedule reviews regularly so issues don't build up.
We have a review cycle that takes place every 6 weeks. These reviews are a free back-and-forth exchange about how things are going, what's working and what's not. The frequency makes sure that strong relationships grow and no small issue has time to evolve into something larger.--Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics
5. Understand the roadblocks they're facing first.
Your lowest performing employee may not actually be the weakest link within your firm. Before offering advice, listen carefully to what may be hindering true productivity. Help eliminate those roadblocks, then see if performance has changed. If so, then you avoid an awkward conversation which challenges a person's worth. If not, then you may directly diagnose and address the problem.--Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
6. Get personal.
Talk to employees on a human level and refer to a time in your own career where you received similar feedback. We all make mistakes and have personal growth opportunities, and sharing your own experiences with the employee can soften the message and get the discussion focused on improvement.--John Tabis, The Bouqs Company
7. Begin with a positive.
The person has to be doing something right. Initiate the conversation with that, and follow with an "and" rather than a "but." For example: "Alex, you're doing a wonderful job managing the client database, and I'd like to see you take more initiative to solicit updates for it." This approach will put the employee in the right frame of mind (i.e. nondefensive) to receive the feedback. -Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work
8. Split the ownership.
At RTC, we're known for our interventions. When someone has a blind spot that is not serving them, our clients, or our company, we have a responsibility to make them aware and then challenge them to engage in coaching to overcome the issue. We split the ownership by saying, "This is going to be awesome for both you and the company." And we offer to split the cost of the coaching. Works every time.--Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
9. Reiterate their importance to your business.
A common tactic most people use is leading in with one positive for every negative comment, which is always helpful. I think it's a good idea to take it one step further and reinforce that they're part of the team, and everyone is working toward the same goals. This can prevent them from feeling singled out.--Daniel Wesley, DebtConsolidation.com
10. Be clear from the get-go about expectations.
Be clear about what you expect from your employees from the beginning. A lot of disappointment can be avoided if everyone is on the same page. When you do need to deliver constructive feedback, be honest and straightforward about it, understand where they are coming from and create an action plan with them to improve it. No one benefits if you don't respond promptly when you're disappointed.--Basha Rubin, Priori Legal
11. Give specific details about the impact of their actions.
People always wants to know where they stand, whether good or bad, so they can focus more on what they're doing right or wrong. But delivering the news is key. Try to word it in a way where the job they're doing is letting their teammates down and putting more pressure on others. Give specific details so they clearly understand.--Michael Sinensky, Village Pourhouse
12. Make it about us, not them.
Most likely, if a good employee isn't living up to expectations, you as a leader haven't provided them a clear path to the goal. So take some responsibility and make it a "we" conversation with them. How can we work together to fix these problems? How can we make the end goal clear and work together to get there? They will be more receptive to change, plus you'll learn something and become better too.--Kyle Clayton, Better Creative
13. Whatever you do, don't sugarcoat it.
If an employee is not performing, it is your duty to clearly communicate your exact expectations and discern the nature of the issue. If you did your job and hired the right person it could be something else, personal or professional. But if you decide to let the person go, be sure to do so with respect and dignity. How you treat people who have been promoted out will have a direct impact on morale. --Joseph DiTomaso, AllTheRooms