Genuine, honest performance discussions can have a profound impact on people and their careers. A significant moment comes to my mind and I thought I would share that with you- again, one of those little things that can make a big diffference.
This happened when I was about 3 - 4 years into my career, after having passed out from XLRI. I was the personnel manager of a factory, which employed almost 500 contract labour on a regular basis. We all knew this was not sustainable and that a change in the business model was needed - but for a couple of years this was falling between the cracks. The factory thought that the Head Office should do something and the Head Office thought that this was a factory issue. In this context, I had a review discussion with my skip manager - who was running the business. He began by asking what I did in the last few months. I wanted to give an impression of how busy I was and told him that I did everything from recruiting, training to running volleyball and cricket tournaments for the workers there. He smiled cynically and said "You are talking like my daughter! When I ask her what she did during the day, she says that she did some history, some english, some science, some play, etc". I realized this discussion was not going where I thought it should go. My heart sank and suddenly I found myself stuttering like those misfiring old fat-fatiyas or tuk-tuks! He then slowly built up my thinking on key priorities and asked me to take ownership of that big contract labour problem, and make a proposal. That discussion changed the next 4 years of my career - we made a breakthrough proposal, implemented it over a year and at the end I moved from HR to run a part of manufacturing and supply-chain in the business.
On reflection, what did that discussion do:
· It was honest and genuine, and gave me feedback that my priorities were wrong
· He coached me on thinking about the biggest strategic risk/priorities and how I could do something
· He supported me and the factory in going beyond what we thought was our role
· Finally, this linked into my own development and movement to a cross functional role over time.
I guess a feedback discussion can be really powerful - it has the potential to change lives. It is not another chit-chat - it is core to the individual's life and career, and if we do it with genuine and honest intent, in a safe and supportive manner, it can work wonders! It is clearly one of those small things that can make a big differrence. I guess we all have such moments to share.....