“Wow! I look so nice and smart today”, could be the expression sometimes when we look in the mirror. However, there could also be days where we aren’t as enthusiastic or upbeat as we’d like ourselves to be.
While it should be the endeavor of any human being to stay positive, keep smiling and be happy, this is not that easy. Moods can fluctuate from time to time for most human beings and it is common. The same phenomenon holds through in the case of organizational life too. As far as an employee is concerned, most of one’s lifetime is invested in the organization. In such a reality, it’s the responsibility of the organization to ensure that most of the employees are upbeat all the time. Let me emphasize, most are upbeat all the time. Is this possible? This means, most people are upbeat and that too all the time. I believe, a well-meaning and determined leadership can make this happen. Such organizations will have perpetuity.
An organization is successful when its employees are constantly improving their personal peace and joy levels, which catalyzes high productivity. Contentment from the workplace is a key element of productivity. While there are several factors that contribute to remaining contended or highly engaged, one of the key factors that can help people stay productive is when leaders can help their teams realize and leverage their strengths. Performance counseling is a high impact process that leaders should continually practice for enabling their people and teams. While there are enough and more concrete, strong concepts and models on performance counseling, I would like to talk about the “Mirroring’ that leaders should constantly do with their employees and teams.
Mirroring to me is a process wherein leaders can periodically show an employee her/his own capabilities and counsel them on how they can build on it further. I bring the metaphor of a mirror, since it’s a process wherein a person is asked to stand in front of the mirror and assess their positive qualities. Hence, when someone is shown the mirror and told their capabilities, it manages to bring up positive strokes in the person.
The talk about capabilities and positive areas should definitely be the focus of the entire counseling process. Most people in their own personal time tend to focus on what they don’t have and leaders should fill that gap by focusing more and leveraging the capabilities and strengths.
While it is extremely important to start with capabilities and strengths and focus mostly on that, we cannot miss on sharing the areas that one needs to and is capable to improve upon. This is also required in mirroring. But, when you mirror to a person the improvement areas, adequate care needs to be taken that the person is able to appreciate the legitimacy of it. Share on how it can have an adverse impact on the person and the organization if it’s not improved upon. It’s crucial to do the sharing in a manner that you as a leader is concerned and would like to have that improved in the person. The entire conversation should make the person feel elated and enthusiastic. The areas of improvement should be shared in a very objective and non-judgmental manner which enables better listening and introspection on the other side. Ensure that only relevant information and facts are shared in the process and keep away from sharing assumptions about the person.
While some of the above aspects are central to mirroring, there are quite a few prerequisites that a leader should bear in mind and take abundant care throughout the process. Be sure that we are creating an environment wherein our team member feels equal and safe. There cannot be a situation of superiority felt; the employee should feel that she/he is in a well-meaning comfortable conversation with a good friend. The success of performance counseling lies in creating that environment.
Mirroring is not just about the leader performing a one-sided role. It’s a mutual dialogue process and hence it’s important to share and also listen to what your employee wants to tell you.
There will be situations wherein the employee has a lot to express, explain and even defend while you talk about improvement areas. In the larger interest, the leader should ensure a keen listening throughout. Be attentive. Listen to what the employee has to say and also look for the unsaid. There may also be situations, wherein, you may want to articulate back and clarify your understanding. Some people may find it difficult to articulate or express a specific aspect and it’s the role of the leader to enable the person to express fully. A performance counseling process should conclude in a win-win situation wherein both parties feel elated and more importantly the employee. There should never be the situation of an embarrassment or feeling in the employee that she/he could not highlight what was required.
Performance counseling or mirroring as I described is a skillful process that a leader acquires with time and practice. But then, I strongly believe that if your intent is genuine to enhance one’s capability, it’s natural that this skill will soon evolve. It will be seen through in your body language and behavior. Today’s world is filled with technological advancements and in this scenario quality conversation time is diminishing by time getting allocated to gadgets and devices. The impact of performance counseling will remain ever powerful in productivity enhancement and strengthen relationships in organizations.