Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Give your workforce the ‘Trophy’

Picture the scene.  You’ve been given a tight deadline.  Unrealistic some may say.  The work you need to do will eat-in to your personal life, but it’s something that you just have to do.  You will have to tell your family that you need space and time to get this done, which means that you won’t be available to attend the party you said would go to, you can no longer go to your child’s play or visit the relative that you promised you would.  Looks of disappointment come your way.  Perhaps a few arguments break out?  Guilt weighing heavily on your shoulders coupled with the stress of performing for your boss to ‘pull it out of the bag’ is making you wish that you were somewhere else.  If only you were on a beach in the sunshine with a good book and a cocktail or two.  But the work needs to be done and it must be completed on-time. 

And so you work, in isolation, throughout the night to complete the much-needed project.  By 4am you’ve read through your proposals and recommendations a thousand times.  You’ve made more amendments than you can remember.  In your mind, it’s a masterpiece.  Your brilliant work is ready for submission.  You ensure that all of the attachments to your covering email are there.  You don’t want to fall at the last fence and make your boss think that you’re too stupid to remember those attachments!  And you hit send.  You check your ‘sent box’ to make sure that the work has been transported to your boss’s computer, wherever that may be – but wherever your boss is you know that they’re probably fast asleep and oblivious to the effort you’ve made as well as the fights you’ve had with your family about having to work so late. Still, you’re pleased with yourself.  You did it!  As you turn off your computer and get ready to snatch what’s left of your sleep allowance you begin to wonder what they’ll think of your work.  Will their opinions of you change?  Will they now finally realise your brilliance?  Will they now understand and appreciate how hard you work?  No doubt they’ll tell you in the morning – or what’s left of it anyway.

And then…. Nothing!

You’re 100-page document with appendices and flow charts, examples and well-constructed arguments is ignored.  You begin to worry that perhaps they didn’t receive your work.  Check your ‘sent box’ again!  No, it went.  It was sent at 0410am.  But they’ve not mentioned it.  Not one word.  Maybe they haven’t had the time to read it yet.  Maybe they’re thinking up the correct words to tell you how brilliant they consider your work to be.  But, maybe they hate it!  Maybe they’re considering ways of getting rid of you because of it?  Maybe they’ll talk to you later, tomorrow perhaps? 

But tomorrow never comes.

If you’re in the business of allocating projects and setting deadlines for your workforce to meet then it’s only fair that you provide them with the feedback they’re expecting at the end of the arrangement.  Lack of useful feedback means lack of direction and leads to frustration.  If you consider yourself to be a leader, then you must provide your followers with direction, not only before a task but on completion.  How else will they ever develop if they’re working blindly never knowing if they’ve met their objectives or even got close?   Very few employees will purposefully provide their bosses with poor work; so they may very well have tried their level best to give you what they believed you wanted. In order to provide effective feedback to your workforce, you may wish to consider the ‘Trophy’ acronym that I have developed over the years.  And it goes like this:

T – is for ‘Timely’.  Timely feedback is vital to correct errors and aide in the development of your team member.  It’s also very useful as a motivational tool so that hard work is recognised in a timely manner and the individual is rewarded appropriately.  Such reward could be as simple as a ‘thanks’ or some other acknowledgment for the work completed, especially if a tight deadline was met to achieve it. We all have ‘esteem needs’.

R – is for ‘Relevance’.  Whatever you choose to say or do in response to someone’s work must be relevant to the situation and subject at-hand.  There is no point diverting the message to encompass other things. If what ends up being discussed actually bears no relevance to the objective set or work completed; then the communication becomes meaningless and demoralising.

O – is for ‘Objective’.  Personal feelings should not shape nor prejudice the structure of the feedback taking place.   To that end, a big-picture approach is preferred.

P – is for ‘Participative’.  Communication should be a two-way affair.  Allowing the other person to respond is imperative in effective communication because both parties must listen to each other.  Allow time for questions to be raised and stay one-step ahead of the game by anticipating likely responses.

H – is for ‘Hierarchical’.  Concentrate on the most important part of the message that you want to convey rather than going through a seemingly endless list of compliments or complaints.  Too much focus on the positives or negatives will become patronising in the ear of the person who has provided the work.  This will cause them to switch-off and view you as a whining child.

Y – is for ‘Yours’.  Never subject anyone else to your interpretation of someone else’s view. Neither should you ever ‘dress up’ a view as someone else’s when in fact it came from you!  I once had a boss that did this all too often.  He’d say that someone in the organisation wasn’t happy with something I’d done or said when in fact it was him that wasn’t happy, but he lacked the guts to tell me himself.  If you’re ever asked to give a member of the team feedback that belongs to someone else then it’s their responsibility and ultimately their duty to give it.

Working in the dark is horrible.  As bosses and leaders, your vision should have a light.  An almost blinding light so that everyone can see it so that no one is ever left behind in the dark. 

In a winning team, we all need to take our turn to hold the Trophy!

Wishing every success in all that you do,



  1. Great ideas here. Couldn't agree more about the importance of feedback and direction from supervisors and how the lack of it plays into frustration - and eventually disillusionment in the work environment.

    Your TROPHY acronym is right on target.

    Good stuff here. Keep up your great work and writing!

  2. We've all had this situation. Did the work under a hard deadline only to have it fall into the black hole of Calcutta. Don't expect to get a TROPHY for your word. It ain't happening.

    My favorite was a time several years ago when I begged, begged I'm telling you, for a 24 hour extension but was denied. When I turned it in (on time!) I discovered that he had left the previous day on a long-planned two-week vacation with his family. He knew perfectly well that he wouldn't be there to approve it when he denied the extension.

    You could say that maybe someone in his department needed the proposal ASAP. But you would be wrong! It required only his approval and it sat there for two solid weeks till he got back. But his apology was sincere. Ha, ha, ha, ha...... Just kidding. There was no sinkin' apology. But then you already knew that, didn't you?!

    Been there. Done that. Got the T-Shirt!

    Warmest aloha,
    Kay in Hawaii

  3. As I read your post I smiled. It transported to some of the many work experiences one has over time. It is so true. The challenge is not to be so self absorbed that we lose sight of who reports to us, their needs and expectations. It is a responsibility that cannot be ignored.

    I greatly appreciated your post. :)

  4. Excellent post! You are so right: too much focus and time spent either one type is boring and therefore the results becomes rather meaningless. I am a great advocate of sharing results and lessons learned in a short, simple and relevant way therefore giving momentum and context to team performance.

  5. Great post! I really like the way you painted the picture at the beginning which made it very easy for me to relate to straight away. I've had some bad bosses in the past and no feedback at all is worse than negative feedback - even negative feedback you can do something with.

    My work these days involves working with dogs to promote teamwork and communication for individuals and always get non-judgemental, honest feedback from a dog - whether you want it or not!

    1. Thanks Angela,

      If I were to be honest - I've probably met more dogs that I've preferred over humans!

      Best wishes,


  6. A big thank you to all that contributed. I'm sorry I am so shockingly late in replying.

    Best wishes,