Development Highway

Using the skills, strategies, and smarts of lawyers, you’ll be able to more effectively coach your employees to optimal performance. Here are 4 great tips to help you give constructive feedback in such a way that you motivate positive and productive performance...

1. Give evidence of performance to employee.

In litigation, prosecutors are required to turn all of their evidence over to the defense. In order to be fair to employees, supervisors need to do the same thing. Tony frequently received disturbing memos from his district manager about his poor performance on sales calls. "You failed to cover the Five Points for Sales Excellence with a customer last month.

This is unacceptable." Tony never received a monitoring sheet spelling out the discrepancies, never heard a tape of a recorded call, and he didn't even have the opportunity to defend himself because the cowardly manager simply shot her message off in a cold blunt memo.

Giving feedback the way Tony's district manager does is dangerous.

It certainly isn't motivating Tony to improve. Moreover, because the manager has provided no proof of the calls - no score sheet, no recording of the call, no date or time, and not even one specific statement about Tony's alleged ineffectiveness - Tony can't even defend his performance. When monitoring and coaching employees, ALWAYS turn over the evidence of the call to them. This evidence may include a recorded call, Mystery Shopper score sheet, detailed notes from customer's account, etc.

2. Prepare for employee performance meetings in advance.

No attorney would conduct a direct examination or cross examination without thoroughly and carefully pre planning their questions. I always prepare a loose script prior to meeting with employees about problem performance, even though I don't actually read from my script. Writing the discussion out reinforces it in my mind and allows me to be less concerned with covering all the basis and more concerned with my employee.

3. Ask open-ended questions.

Asking a juror if they are for the death penalty yields a yes or no answer, but asking her how she feels about the death penalty gives the attorney the opportunity to learn more. Just the same, asking your employee if she thought the phone call in question was good will yield a yes or no answer, but asking her how she thought the call went gives her the opportunity to expound. My favorite open-ended coaching questions include: "If you could do this call over again, would you?" "Tell me about that caller." "Is there anything else about this call/customer that I haven't asked, but need to know?"

4. Don't allow the "Twinkie Defense."

In court, defendants may stand behind a theory of the case called the "Twinkie Defense." This theory tries to throw the jury off the trail by blaming the client's bad actions on something else - he ate too many Twinkies, for instance, and was on a sugar high when he killed/robbed/raped/molested and therefore is not responsible for his actions. You may have encountered the Twinkie Defense with your employees: "I was late because traffic was unusually heavy and then when I got here the elevator was broken, therefore my tardiness is not my fault." Decide that employees will be held accountable for their actions and don't allow them to hide behind the Twinkie Defense. In response to the Twinkie Defense, you respond with, "This is about individual responsibility - not trying to hide behind excuses." Deploy these field-tested and proven strategies and you’ll be coaching employees like a pro!