No, but really, how am I doing?

Here’s the main responses 97% of managers give a subordinate when they ask “how am I doing”?  Actually, the reality is, most employees will never verbally ask this question, they ask it with their eyes.  They make some sort of worthless small talk, or update you on something that is work related, then you get ‘the look’.  It’s that look you get from a dog when you talk to a dog and the dog doesn’t speak human, so you get the head tilt ‘I’m trying to turn your human words into dog words, but it’s not working’ look.  It’s a waiting, a waiting for you to tell me, how am I doing!   Here’s what most of you say:

1. “Oh! You’re doing great!”

2. “Hey! Just keep up the great work, you’re doing fine!”

3. “Yeah! Well, just keep working hard!”

That really encapsulates the only feedback an employee gets when it’s not review time.

“No, but really, how am I doing?”

Here’s some hints that can help you out, if you get pressed beyond the three go-to answers above:

– No one wants to hear they suck, even if they really suck.

– 99% of people feel they are doing better than you think they are doing. Put that into context before you respond.

– People love to hear that you told someone else they are going great. That’s like positive feedback on steroids.

– Comparing how they are doing to someone else in your group, is never a good idea for team dynamics.

– Using a scale, is always a cop-out. “I’d say your a solid B-!” “On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re easily a 6.5!” What does that even mean!?

 What should it sound like when one of your employees asks you ‘how am I doing’?  I think it should sound something like this:

“Great question. Let’s talk about it. How do you think you’re doing?”

Wait for it, it’s not a deflection, but you need to know what you’re walking into! Let them tell you. Make them tell you. Your answer really depends on where their mindset is.  If they think they walk on water, but you want to drown them, you’ve got a giant gap you need to cross.  If you’re both close in your assessment of the performance, it’s an easier conversation.  Regardless, I think you should really give them something when they’ve asked for it.  First talk about what your expectations are.

“I’m glad to hear you feel your doing well on the project.  I agree with you.  Remember, we set out some goals prior for this project, and I don’t want to lose site of those, and what we’ve determined will be successful.  As of right now, you are right line with where we need to be at this point.  If you want to know it out of the park, be exceptional, you will need to do…”

Give them a chance to be great. Truly great. Not ‘meeting’ expectations.  Too often we tell someone is doing ‘great’ when they are doing their job. The job they got hired for, and nothing more.  That isn’t great, that’s meeting expectations.  Most people aren’t happy with meeting expectations, they want to do more.  You have to be clear on what that looks like.




3 thoughts on “No, but really, how am I doing?

  1. Spot on! I learned a great feedback technique from InsideOut Development’s Coaching workshop that we’ve now taught all our managers, three simple questions. But, you ask the employee to answer them first, then you fill in the same questions with anything they missed or you need to reinforce.

    What’s working?
    Where are you getting stuck?
    What might you do differently in future?

    I use it when I do my performance reviews to have a dialogue with the employee versus just going over the form – we still review the form and their ratings, but it starts with that feedback dialogue. I’ve found most of the time, the employees identify the issues, but if not at least you know where the gap is.

    Very easy to use and remember, but oh so powerful!

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