Mark and Mike talk about results a lot. Part of results are accurate results (free of mistakes) and (for an individual contributor) generating them independently without needing a lot of handholding. Do you have some better wording of this for when I talk to my direct next week?

She gave a presentation this week to just our group (n=6) and admitted she procrastinated. Her delivery could have been a bit better. My boss is retiring today and so our group will be subject to more scrutiny and I am concerned her abilities are less than people in other groups. She's good at getting little tasks done for others, so others are pleased with her efforts, but she needs to be able to do more. Due to family situations, she works less hours than others and takes more time off, and (having listened to the Family Emergency cast), I want to use this feedback opportunity to emphasize she needs to prioritize her learning so she can do work without mistakes and more independently. We set up a coaching plan at the beginning of the year, with quarter by quarter milestones of webinars / books / articles, but I wish she'd show understanding by asking questions more. My boss and I have PhDs in science/engineering and he often covered for others' lack of scientific knowledge since no one else does in our group even has an undergraduate degrees in science/engineering. I want her to understand that she has flexibility about work time (as we can work remotely), but the onus is on her to get her abilities up and ask questions so she can be more accurate and do things without so much of my help. I need help wording that part.

katehorstman's picture
Admin Role Badge

It sounds like you're doing some really great thinking about your direct and her needs. I want to congratulate you on that. 

I would suggest that feedback would be helpful for improving work quality by reducing mistakes. Positive feedback on reports, etc. with few errors would be helpful. "When your report has less than 5 errors, that is really helpful to me. Thank you." Negative feedback would work to reduce errors, but I always prefer to use positive where possible. It helps to define what behaviors should be continued in the future. Reducing errors might be too small a goal for coaching in general, but it might be helpful to set one of the coaching goals as “each monthly report to have less than 5 errors” or something similar.

In regards to working more independently, you might look to delegation or setting a coaching goal for accomplishing reporting on her own or asking others than yourself. We also often say, "I trust you, do what you think is best." Development can hard, but asking for more is part of a managers responsibility. Coaching could be very helpful here. You could set a goal that by some future deadline she submit your monthly report without your help and with zero errors. That way she has your support in the One on Ones and through the course of the next few months, but she knows the goal is to turn in accurate reporting on her own. The small goal I mentioned before of each monthly report of hers having less than 5 errors would work well here too.

The flexible work time discussion sounds less complex. If she is currently working within the bounds of the policy and you feel comfortable, there might not be a need for feedback. However, if she uses flextime as a reason for errors or asking for too much help, you could certainly give feedback on that. I don’t want to provide solutions where I might not understand the whole situation, but it sounds like the two major issues are error reduction and working independently. I’d suggest that feedback and coaching are the perfect tools to resolve these issues. 

If your question is simply how to voice to your direct that you want her to work on fewer errors and more independence, it might help to keep in mind that we want to focus on a positive future. You are discussing her development, not her past. Therefore, the discussion is about how to improve. All of us make mistakes in our work and all of us could become more independent. It’s not about how things are now, but how we can be better in the future. If that means reducing mistakes to less than a certain number per product and working more independently by being coached, that is a great way to move towards being more effective and efficient. 


I hope this helps,

Kate Horstman


TNoxtort's picture

Thank you so much for your reply Kate. I've heard ABOUT you, now I got to hear FROM you.

Your E-mail helped me clarify in my own mind what I want: I want her to start things earlier so it's not last minute. Quadrant 2, important not urgent. By doing so, she has more time to then: (1) learn from doing the actual process, (2) ask  me questions so she can learn, (3) less likely to make mistakes, and (4) looks better overall for being able to handle a higher workload.

When I wrote the original post, I am also concerned she is going to approach me asking to be promoted. No way, but that's a different discussion (where I will point her to MT podcasts on this topic, which was on her development plan), and I'll prepare that separately. So my feedback will be along the lines of when she does things last minute, and quality suffers, it affects how she is seen and the work people will pass her in the future, and can she work on starting things earlier in the future Then after she says yes, I'll point out the benefits based on the four numbers above, but it is in a positive context.

About her making less mistakes, it's more I see that I see similar ones And about her being independent, I realize it's more I want her to ask me so she can learn, since my boss isn't here anymore to cover for people that don't understand the science or the "why" of what we do. But I can't teach her if it is last minute.

I posted about her previously here ( and in March, I created a Powerpoint for her with links to books, articles, podcasts, and videos in the following topics Time Management, Leadership, our scientific area, and Writing. Under leadership, I did refer her to MT/CT casts. The Powerpoint I created ended with deliverables, like less errors copy/paste, work on important non-urgent things, etc. I then asked her to pick which ones she was going to do and give me timing which she did. The presentation she gave that I talked about this thread was on one of the books on time management.

Due to changes in projects, she doesn't have any of her own projects anymore, but she assists others on simple things.Since she is assisting others, I've encouraged to ask them the "why" on their projects too. My projects are more complex, but I want to get her to the point where she can assist on mine.