Guest Blog: Kyle Alfriend - Continuous Feedback.

Today we interview Kyle Alfriend, the  managing partner and lead listing and investment consultant for The Alfriend Real Estate Group of Re/Max Achievers.  Over the past 20 plus years, Kyle has received numerous awards for sales, customer service, and lifetime achievements from both Realtor and Building Industry Associations. His skill is matching buyers to sellers. He clearly identifies which employees are vital for the client’s needs, and quickly discovers hidden talent.

How to formulate feedback well?

Feedback must be early and often, a continuous flow. High performing employees are always on the edge, always pushing their limits. They have an insatiable need to out perform their prior best. These are the people I hire. Like a marathon runner, they need to pace themselves through each mile. Feedback is like a coach running beside the runner, showing them when / how to use their best skills and gifts, pacing them, communicating where they are in the pursuit of their goals.  Everyone needs regular reality checks.

How to make feedback a continuous conversation rather than a once-a-year event?

I give feed-back constantly. Often several times a week, and a minimum of twice a month. It is not a formal meeting. It often comes across casual or random, but it’s planned in my calendar. I also have "debriefing" discussions after every completed project. I know their personal goals and aspirations, and how this job ties into those. I know the tasks and obligations that cause the stress, and the ones that excite them. Much of the feedback is positive, tied to something that was a success for them. However, when they mess up, feedback must also be immediate. They know they messed up, and ignoring it only causes them anxiety. It is my job to keep it all in perspective. Get it on the table, deal with it, and keep moving. They are a valuable member of the team. If there is a lesson to be learned, let’s learn from it. This feedback is as often as they need it.

How to give feedback a positive connotation?

We aim very high. If we make every shot, it only means we are not aiming high enough. This philosophy is ingrained into our culture. Being a cutting edge company requires taking risks, and by definition we will have failures. If the employee sees this philosophy in action,, they will have confidence in taking risks. I recently had an employee make a $20,000 mistake on her second day of the job. Speaking with her, I learned how she made her decisions that led to the error. Her thinking was logical, based on the information / experience she had, and there was no one available to check with. Her options were to take the initiative, or do nothing. I am happy to pay $20,000 to make sure employees are always on their game, taking the initiative.

Sometimes the problem is training to get a person to their best. Sometimes the person is in the roll,  that needs to change to help them achieve their best. Personalities are hard to change. If it is a personality issue, we usually need to make a change in people. If they have talent, I keep them, but invent another role that fits their personality. If it’s the right person for the role, it’s worth the money /time to train them. If they are the wrong person, training will to help. I don't place a lot on professional background. I like people who are constantly growing and expanding.

Other times they need to be partnered with someone. Often, things just go wrong. Regardless, it is never negative. If I get them functioning at their best, then my business succeeds. Last week an employee wrote a contract, adding a clause that should have never been added. She did not inform m, and sent it on to the other party. Had the other party accepted the contract, it could have put us into a very difficult position (fortunately they countered, allowing me correct the clause). It that case, it was actually a very foolish move, that never should have happened.

However the motivation on the part of the employee was tied to a positive trait. She was going overboard in an attempt to help out client. She also has been trying to be less dependent upon me, and little more able to work independently. Both are good traits. She needed to know that her move was incredibly foolish, and could have had severe ramifications. However I also needed her to keep those positive traits. We discussed, in very clear terms, the ramifications if this repeated itself. Then we discussed her true passion...serving clients with her unique style. We went through the steps she needed to become more independent, and how she could more effectively use her skills to serve the client. Everyone in the office knew about the issue. Addressing it opening, reinforces to everyone the value of each employee, and how we work together to achieve everyones goals. On the other hand, if it had been a repeating problem, everyone needs to know why they relationship with an employee needed to end.

How to help people accept feedback & coaching well?

Big picture, I start with how their talents and goals fit our goals. It is dishonest to keep an employee in a role where they lack the necessary skills or talents. I had an employee who wanted to go into sales. I have him the opportunity, and he could not cut it. He was well trained, and could articulate every step needed. He simply couldn't close the sale. I tied him to a highly

successful sales person, who always left a disaster in her wake. He became he personal "Operations Director" to manage her business. He excelled, and she was removed for the details of the business she hated to deal with. If the employee sees we care about their goals, and are will to adjust to their talents, they accept the coaching.I do focus on people's personal goals. This person who took the "director of operations" position could have considered it a demotion. His ego could have prevented the move. However, I focused on his personal goals. He was in a position he could excel, have less stress, and be highly respected for his skills. This position then became a model for similar roles we created for others. The sales person needed to be coach to always credit him for all the sales awards she then received. I was able to see the change as allowing the both to excel at their gifts and become superstars, versus their egos seeing it as a statement that they couldn't do the job on their own.