Always The Act – Never The Actor

Even if you’re an experienced sales manager, it’s likely you may find it difficult to advise other people about areas in which improvement is needed. Praising a good performance is easy; everyone likes to receive a compliment. Both parties are smiling and, for the moment at least, life is good. But what do you do when a kick in the butt seems more appropriate than a pat on the back?

My experience has been that too many managers tend to make criticism personal. Doing so almost never has a positive outcome. Never say something like, “Can’t you tell time? You’ve been late three times this week!” Statements such as this tend to put the emphasis on the employee’s shortcomings, rather than on the desired behavior. To address the behavior say, “You have shown that you can be punctual, but this week you’ve been late three times. Why the change?”

Similarly, when you want to change a behavior, don’t address it as a personality issue. Asking “What can you do to become more reliable?” is likely not going to be productive. Rather, try saying, “What can you do to ensure you’ll be on time going forward?”

While the difference may seem subtle, the results are usually quite predictable. When you make it personal, the employee will typically either get defensive or start to whimper. Neither response is productive. When you focus on the behavior, both of you can focus on the same desired objective. Always remember the saying: Criticize the act – not the actor!

Tom Jennings

Saturday, December 1, 2012