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ASCM Insights

Play to Their Strengths


Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Janet Duckham, chief supply chain officer at Captain D’s, to the pages of SCM Now magazine. Duckham leads the company’s purchasing efforts, oversees quality assurance, and manages distribution and logistics processes for 540 restaurants in 22 states.

As executives, we all rely on others to make positive contributions to the organization. However, sometimes people fall short. As leaders, it may be tempting to just say, “Well, they can’t do it,” or “They don’t get it.” Instead, I suggest looking in the mirror and asking, “How can I foster an environment in which this person can excel?”

I’m of the opinion that 99% of people want to do a good job. Some of them just need help unlocking their potential. Creating clear expectations, establishing accountability and providing constructive feedback is a three-step process that can be applied to all aspects of people development.

Start with Expectations

The first step is simply asking each person on your team if they know what they are supposed to do. Find out if they understand what specific contributions they are expected to make and how they will be evaluated. This provides insight into how they see their impacts and value to the organization. Many times, there is a disconnect between what your expectations are and what they think your expectations are.

I grew up playing sports and have applied many of my experiences to what happens every day at work. Whether an individual or team sport, there are situations that build commitment and character. On a team, typically each player has a specific responsibility: For example, a point guard is the floor general and runs the team on the court. We would not expect the center to be handling those responsibilities, as that is not the expectation of that role.

Accountability is the strength of discipline

Lack of accountability leads to mediocrity, which is unacceptable. Accountability starts with setting goals. Goals, in turn, bring about a proactive focus. Set goals with your team members’ involvement, as people are more invested when they are part of the process. There are numerous ways to do this, but the SMART method works and is easy to execute. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

Explain how goals can be achieved using an action plan or roadmap. Develop a scorecard and establish performance indicators that will be used to measure the results. Finally, remember that everyone works differently, so let go of how you would reach the end result. You may even learn something from watching a new approach.

The importance of feedback

Giving feedback is all about creating self-awareness. If team members are under-performing, managers must confront the problem by providing timely and constructive feedback. This also helps motivate employees to go beyond mere compliance (“I have to do this”) to true commitment (“I want to do this, and I care about the results”). Commitment is a key building block of an engaged culture.

According to “Bringing out the Best in Others” by Thomas K. Connellan, there are three types of feedback: motivational, informational and developmental. Motivational feedback focuses on behavior and is intended to accelerate someone’s potential. To reinforce the behavior you want more of, compliment it. This kind of positive recognition builds self-esteem and leads to greater results. To correct the wrong behavior, use negative feedback. This is not a punishment. Simply deliver the message — hard on the process, soft on the person. Remember, providing no feedback at all is worse. It can be a silent assassin. Finally, be specific. Asking, “How is my team doing?” is less valuable than, “Is my team getting you what you need within two hours?”

Informational feedback is the roadmap to success and therefore must be goals-focused. The most effective informational feedback is immediate and matches the behavior. Again, the assumption is that people want to do a good job. Hence, highlighting the results of their efforts has a high probability of improving future performance.

Developmental feedback is a method for making corrections. First, define the issue and describe performance. Avoid pointing out problems or asking why they happened. Instead, inquire as to how things can be improved and what is needed to make those improvements. As your team members come up with solutions, they will buy in.

Unlock the potential in your team by keeping these strategies in mind. When you spend more time on what is right, you will bring out the best in others.

About the Author

Janet Duckham

Janet Duckham is a semi-retired leadership veteran with 35 years of supply chain experience. She may be contacted at

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