This is why you have to stop asking the “Why Not?” question

As the saying goes, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”, then why is it so many managers struggle to get the best out of their people despite giving them feedback? Recent research from Gallup, helps to explain why. Only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them to do better work. That is a shocking statistic and a number of employees complain that they don’t even receive feedback!!

Unfortunately it gets worse when further research shows that feedback only improves performance approximately 33% of the time while making it worse one third of the time! Wow, no wonder manager’s hold back in giving feedback if this is the result.

One key reason I have found during training sessions and coaching on the job is the manager’s insistence to always want to know why someone didn’t do something. I hears these questions quite often:

“Why didn’t you ask that last customer for their loyalty card?” “Why didn’t you suggest another product to that customer?”

You could argue these are legitimate questions to ask, however all this does is put the team member on the spot. They’ve been caught out so what will they almost always come up with? – An excuse of why they didn’t, couldn’t etc. Their brain has gone into defence mode because they are feeling attacked. This gets nowhere and I can see why 33% of performance declines, the team member is feeling picked on and will become defensive.

How do you give feedback that doesn’t end up in a team member becoming defensive? The best way is to focus on future performance, not the past. No conversation can change what has happened, a much better conversation is to focus on how the team member can improve for the future. So here’s a couple of magic questions you can use instead:

“Why is it important to ……?” and/or “Next time how could you do that differently?” These questions are so powerful for many reasons:

  • It doesn’t cause the team member to become defensive
  • The team member has to think before they answer
  • The manager knows that the team member knows why it’s important and/or how to do it right next time
  • The team member comes up with the answer, so there is much more buy in
  • It’s a discussion and not the team member being told what to do
  • It is a relatively quick conversation, so these questions are ideal to use in busy retail environments.

Great coaching conversations involve both parties being involved in a discussion, no ta one way telling process. This encourages team members to share their perspective and solve the issue themselves. So much more powerful. This coaching style encourages independence and ownership which ultimately leads to better performance.

So isn’t it time you canned the “Why not?” question!!!

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.