By Shelly Anderson
They say business is easy until people get involved. While that may be true, your people can be part of the vision to grow your operation.
Most self-storage owners dread doing performance evaluations with their staff. Either they don’t feel they have the time, they want to avoid a difficult conversation, or they don’t feel equipped to manage the discussion. This article addresses these excuses and provides guidance for evaluations that lead to happier owners, employees and, ultimately, tenants.
Excuse 1: I Don’t Have Time
Team members can make or break your business culture. You can influence their behavior with the way you treat them, including the way you communicate. One critical form of communication is the performance evaluation. It’s a formal time to talk about employees’ favorite subject—themselves! If you don’t make the time, be prepared, as people who yearn for attention will act out negatively just to be noticed.
When you make time to focus on your team and discuss how they’re doing, what they’re doing well, areas where they can improve and the roadmap to get there, you show them you care. No matter their age or background, people want to know that what they do matters. When they feel heard and understand what’s expected of them, they often pay it forward in respectful treatment of your self-storage tenants.
You don’t have to wait for the once-a-year merry-go-round either. Real-time feedback, positive or negative, is much more meaningful and will impact performance when it’s received as the behavior is happening (or recently happened). Make it a habit to catch people doing something right. Fight the urge to focus on the negative. The more fluid those discussions are, the more sincere appreciation can be given; and concerns can be raised and addressed before they become problems.
Excuse 2: It’s Too Difficult
A self-storage owner ends up here because he failed to communicate with employees throughout the year. When you wait too long to provide feedback and address concerns, those behaviors that should be improved get worse because the team member has no idea there’s anything wrong. The owner gets more frustrated, and it builds to a crescendo at performance-review time.
At this point, the team member is often caught off guard, embarrassed or upset, and wondering why nothing was said earlier when he could have addressed the issue. Essentially, he feels sandbagged, and the owner is exhausted and resentful for being “put in the position” of having to deliver bad news. Sound familiar? How much feedback do you think the employee absorbs at this point? How open is his attitude? There are two ways to ensure this never happens again:
1. Conduct regular reviews. If possible, set up semi-annual reviews to avoid having everything culminate in an annual marathon session that can be exhausting, not to mention stressful, for you and the employee. The first session can be less formal, focusing on the first six months of wins and struggles.
Provide specific examples and offer encouragement as well as insight into what you’d like to see, whether that’s improved behavior or the completion of specific goals. Provide tips to avoid repeats of poor performance. You may need to conduct additional training on specific skillsets. By doing this early, you reduce the likelihood of a big blow-up, showing your employee you’re there to support his success by giving him time to make the necessary changes before the formal review.
2. Use discipline as necessary. Create and follow a progressive discipline plan. It should outline steps to communicate with the employee if things aren’t going well. It will also reduce the probability of a “surprise” event at a performance review and any stewing on your part.
It starts with verbal course correction delivered in private. This simple, direct communication should be done with dignity so everyone in the conversation knows what’s expected. If the verbal correction doesn’t work, follow it with a formal reprimand in writing. The process offers an opportunity to work with the employee in real time to correct a problem before the performance review.
Excuse 3: I’m Unequipped or Unprepared
Dave Ramsey, author of three “New York Times” bestsellers and a radio host of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Dave Ramsey Show,” developed the concept of “EntreLeadership,” which is really at the heart of the self-storage industry. In a world of noise and theories, his no-nonsense approach keeps everything in perspective.
Ramsey’s book, “EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches,” address the importance of job descriptions, including key results areas (KRAs) that “define in detail what winning in that position looks like.” If you can’t write it down, how can your employee be expected to learn it, much less achieve it on a consistent basis?
By writing KRAs for your staff and reviewing them when someone is hired and annually thereafter, you’ll feel better equipped to manage and voice expectations. They’ll help you outline success for employees and provide guidelines for opportunities to improve. According to Ramsey, “KRAs are a vital type of communication because we have to continually define what winning looks like with our team.”
As a leader, make sure you’re available and your team members have job descriptions in writing. Have ongoing dialogue—positive and negative—so the actual performance review is just a scheduled meeting that provides a recap of the past year, avoiding the drama and suspense no one wants. It’ll offer you and your employee a chance to map out goals and success within the organization. It’ll also provide a formal review of compensation, which might not otherwise happen and can be another opportunity to present problems or ideas about the future.
By treating team members with respect and dignity and giving them regular, real-time, constructive feedback, you’ll build unity and loyalty among your staff, and that will carry over to your self-storage tenants.
Shelly Anderson is CEO of Michaels Wilder, a full-service marketing-communications agency specializing in online marketing, local search advertising, digital strategies, mobile media, brand development, research and consulting, media planning, and talent management. She has more than 20 years of experience across multiple human resources disciplines, having worked within Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 organizations. For more information, visit www.michaelswilder.com.