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4 Conversations Every Manager Should Have

Do you feel an overwhelming sense of dread when you need to have an uncomfortable conversation with an employee?   You’re not the only one!  A staggering 69% of managers say they are uncomfortable communicating directly with their employees and another 37% say they’re uncomfortable giving direct feedback.

Knowing you’re not alone can ease the awkwardness a bit, but to thrive and succeed in today’s competitive senior living marketplace, managers and employees need open and honest lines of communications.  As a manager, there are 4 conversations you should be having with every employee.  By implementing routine feedback and review communication, managers can often address potential problems before they arise.

1.Goal setting. It’s so simple that it sounds foolish, but do your employees know what you expect?  Often we obfuscate, or worse, avoid being direct all together because it’s uncomfortable.  By setting a meeting with the express purpose of goal setting, it allows for a natural segway into what you, and your employee, want to achieve.

It’s not enough to set a goal, you also have to develop a plan to achieve your goal and a way to measure success. Remember the acronym SMART.  Set Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Timely goals.  In other words, be specific in the who, what, where when setting a goal.  Determine how you’ll measure success or failure at the onset, so everyone is using the same yardstick.  Make goals actionable; it’s great to want to increase sales 300%, but is that actionable in the next 60, 90 or 180 days?  Probably not, so set reasonable goals for specific activities that will lead to the results you want.  Then measure those activities on a regular basis.

2. Positive reinforcement. Everybody likes to hear when they’ve done a good job, but those conversations don’t happen very often. As managers we’re busy, and when someone is doing a good job of course it’s appreciated, but it also makes it easier to focus on problems elsewhere without rewarding those who are succeeding.  Make a point to stop and offer specific and timely positive reinforcement.  Don’t wait two weeks to tell someone they did a great job, say it right away.  These are the easiest conversations to have and a great way to overcome the “oh no” feeling in the pit of an employee’s stomach when the boss asks, “can I see you for a moment?”  If you’re providing just as much positive feedback as negative, you’ll find you have a much more open and collaborative relationship with employees.

3. Constructive criticism and feedback. Remember that goal setting meeting? Halfway through whatever time period you set to achieve a goal, call a short meeting and give the employee a chance to tell you what is going right and wrong. Chances are they know where they’re falling short, and by giving them a chance to talk about roadblocks and you offering solutions, everyone wins.  Goals are achieved, communication lines are open and employees are self-aware when they’re missing the mark.

4. Review. Once the established time period has elapsed, review the goals against the criteria for success you established in your initial goal setting meeting. Mission accomplished or was there room for improvement?  What could be done differently next time? And, while you’re there, set new SMART goals and start the process all over again.  Communication is an ongoing process, so keep the process going.

These four conversations not only open up lines of communication between manager and employee, they increase productivity and results when approached correctly.  A crucial element to success when conducting these meetings is inspiring intrinsic motivation, or motivation from within, rather than imposing it.  Employees will work much harder when driven to succeed by internal motivators like a sense of progress and achievement, as opposed to a manager telling them to do something.  When the motivation comes from within, results are more apparent.

The easiest way to inspire intrinsic motivation is through tone and approach. These meetings should be a two-way conversation, not a manager telling an employee what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.  For example, if a community needs to increase census, remind your employee how census plays a key factor in helping the team achieve their mission and ask them what their census goals are.  Giving someone the control to set their own goals is often more successful then telling them what you want them to do.  If the answer you receive isn’t on target, explain why a higher target may be necessary.  A friendly tone and conversational approach turns these meetings from obligatory to productive.

Once you establish a pattern of conversations and goal setting, you’ll find your employees are more engaged and you don’t have to dread those awkward manager/employee conversations anymore.  Instead, you’ll look forward to productive mutual goal setting conversations.

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