People often ask me, “How does a servant leader effectively give feedback when a direct report’s performance is less than ideal?” Great question!
Like many of you, I’ve been a practicing servant leader most of my life—even before I had heard the phrase servant leadership. In fact, the two leadership models I am best known for around the world—The One Minute Manager® and SLII®—are examples of servant leadership in action. To answer the question, I’ll start with a quick overview of the Three Secrets of The One Minute Manager: One Minute Goal Setting, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. Then I’ll share how to structure a Re-Direct and deliver it effectively.
Three Secrets of the One Minute Manager
The First Secret of The One Minute Manager is One Minute Goal Setting. All good performance starts with clear goals—which is a part of the leadership aspect of servant leadership.
The Second Secret is all about praise and recognition. Once people are clear on goals, an effective One Minute Manager’s aim is to catch people doing something right! Then, they deliver a One Minute Praising that recognizes a direct report’s progress toward achieving a shared goal.
The Third Secret deals with redirection. If someone is doing something wrong or not performing as well as agreed upon, the next step is a One Minute Re-Direct.
In contrast to goal setting, praise and redirection are part of the servant aspect of servant leadership: working for their people to help them win—accomplish their goals.
To Reprimand or Redirect?
The original One Minute Manager gave negative feedback with a One Minute Reprimand. But when my coauthor, the late Spencer Johnson, and I were working on The New One Minute Manager, we realized that while reprimands may have worked years ago in a command-and-control management environment, they aren’t appropriate today.
Why? Because in today’s workplace, leadership is more of a side-by-side process. Also, things change so fast in most fields that people’s competency to do a job is often short-lived. Ongoing learning is necessary for us to keep up. Even if you’re an expert, you never know when your area might be eliminated. So we created the One Minute Re-Direct, which can help people learn in this fast-changing environment.
Redirection with Respect
As a servant leader, you must be able to redirect behavior to keep people on the right track while also respecting their dignity.
My friend Erwin McManus has a wonderful saying: “Don’t let the truth run faster than love.” This applies perfectly to redirecting someone’s behavior. When someone makes a mistake, you need to tell the truth so you can change the behavior—but make sure you do so in a caring way. Always assume the best intentions.
Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states it this way: “It’s important to maintain the balance between being tenderhearted and task-oriented.” Remember—when you share feedback, it’s never about the person; it’s about the behavior. A servant leader’s job is to constantly help people be the best they can be.
How to Give a One Minute Re-Direct
First, before giving a One Minute Re-Direct, it’s important that the leader makes sure the direct report’s goal was clear. If it wasn’t, the leader needs to accept responsibility for that and clarify the goal. If the goal was clear and a performance problem exists, the leader may proceed with the Re-Direct.
The first part of an effective Re-Direct focuses on the performance.
Make the issue clear: talk about what went wrong and share your feelings about it
- As with One Minute Praisings, a Re-Direct should happen as soon as possible after an incident. Don’t hoard your feelings. The longer you wait to give someone feedback, the more emotional it can become—so give feedback as soon as possible.
- Confirm the facts with the person and review together what went wrong. Be specific. For example, if a customer did not receive the correct order, make that clear.
- Express how you feel about the mistake and its impact on the results. You might say, “I’m concerned. One of our best customers was really upset. She needed that order for a sales presentation, and because it didn’t arrive on time, her event didn’t go well.” Then, pause to allow the person to feel the impact of the error.
The second part of a Re-Direct focuses on the person’s behavior.
The goal is not to tear people down but to build them up so that they will return to top performance and stay motivated to learn.
- Let the individual know they are better than their mistake and you still think well of them as a person. “Everyone makes mistakes. I still think you’re a great contributor to our team.”
- Remind the person that you have confidence and trust in them and that you don’t expect a repeat of this mistake. “I have a lot of confidence in you, and I trust this won’t happen again.”
That’s it! The key is to remember that your job is about helping people be the best they can be.
I hope you’ll find this information helpful the next time you need to redirect someone’s behavior. You’ll encourage them to improve performance while letting them know how much you support their success. And that’s servant leadership in action!