Are your people ready to do the job you’ve prepared them for? Do your managers know how to give feedback? Are your salespeople really listening to customers?
Managing performance starts with measuring performance.
But how do you measure workplace conversations? Language is complex. Conversations are rarely grammatical. Context matters. Individual expression varies, but it’s the heart of authenticity. Is there an objective metric?
Breaking down interpersonal skills is notoriously difficult. But it can be done. Communication is behavior; it’s something you do. Knowing in theory how to hit a baseball is no substitute for having a coach provide feedback on your stance, grip, swing, and follow-through. Interpersonal skills are no different.
Let’s dissect a commonly cited trait for both leaders and salespeople: Empathy. I’ve seen definitions in training materials such as “understand what someone else is feeling,” or “the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” While true, you can’t measure that, and it’s hard to teach. Let’s take another approach: dissect a conversation where “empathy” is being expressed.
Here’s an example: a customer, Tracy, has called to complain that a shipment was incomplete, and it’s going to cause problems. The account manager replies, “Tracy, If I were in your shoes, I’d be upset too. Our mistake has cost you time and money. Let me make it right…”
Where is the “Empathy” in this reply? Let’s break it down. The manager:
Used the person’s name
Said that they would feel the same way
Acknowledged the problem
Stated that they would help
This is “Empathy” made measurable. Four components. Each can be measured.
You can now assess and teach this as a skill. You can give feedback on each component. It can be practiced. You can review customer service calls to identify what reps are doing right and where they can improve.
Practice and feedback – the formula for performance improvement.
John Hack, CTO and co-founder of Interflexion, holds a bachelor’s from MIT, a master’s from NYU and three patents. His career spans natural language processing, data visualization, predictive analytics, and business information systems, with a strong focus on Performance Management.