Grow with Grunder: Let compliments outshine criticism

Learn and lead gears (Photo: onurdongel / iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
Photo: onurdongel / iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Marty Grunder
Marty Grunder

When I look back on my early days leading Grunder Landscaping Co. (GLC), I realize I was a “gotcha manager.” I spent more time correcting my team’s mistakes than I did complimenting them for work done well.

I think back to how that must have made my team feel and how I would feel if I had been on the receiving end of my management style. I realize now that a team that knows you’re invested in their success will do far better work than one that feels like management is out to get them. To effectively lead, we need to be skilled at giving both compliments and constructive feedback.

Let me show you what I mean. Say I drive up to a GLC job site on a Friday afternoon. The crew leader knows the property looks good, and she’s proud of the work they’ve done this week.

I too am happy with most of what I see. I say to the crew leader, “This job looks awesome. The edges on those beds are perfect, the mulch is pushed down against the foundation and I love how you made certain all the window wells are clean. Thank you for your incredible attention to detail.” I pause, wait for her to absorb my words and smile. And then I say, “I did see a few small items that would make this project even better. Would you mind walking around with me, and I’ll help you fix them?”

There are three reasons this approach is more effective than the one I used to take:

I didn’t take good work for granted. I know I would hate it if after a week of working hard, all someone recognized were the mistakes I made. Actively look for what you can compliment your team on, and give praise where praise is due.

I was specific in both my compliments and my criticism. Most people want to do good work, but first, they need to understand what good work means at your company. Be clear in your expectations and provide specific, actionable feedback. There’s a big difference between saying, “Good job!” and saying, “I loved the way you detailed the job out, Ben. You pruned the maple tree perfectly.” The former is too vague and feels hollow. The latter is specific and memorable and communicates clearly what good work is.

I offered help or a plan to reach a solution. When I see problems, I try to avoid quick fixes and instead look for a real solution that will prevent the problem from arising again. If your team makes mistakes, resist the urge to play Superman and jump in to do the job for them. Instead, take the time to (re)train them properly and teach them how to problem solve on their own. Ten extra minutes of training now can save you hours of callbacks later.

If you find yourself playing “gotcha” like I used to, take a step back and rethink your approach. Now, especially, is a time to show gratitude to your team for their hard work and positive attitude and to provide constructive feedback. They need your leadership now more than ever.

Have a great month!

If you want to see for yourself how we’re working to optimize every area of our business at Grunder Landscaping, join me for my upcoming Profit Pros virtual workshop on August 13. At this online event, I’ll teach three live sessions on what to do before, during, and after a job to maximize profits. Learn more at https://growgroupinc.com/profit-pros-virtual-workshop.

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