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Employee counseling is so important, yet rarely done because people don't know how. Here is how to give feedback.

Employee counseling must be done by their Leaders. Leaders counsel their subordinates. It is what sales leaders do. It is the single biggest asset you have to improve the job performance, job satisfaction, and retention of your team. It is better than training, seminars and raises. Below you will find how to give feedback.

Yet, Gallup poll showed that 78% of all US employees did not receive either positive or negative feedback in the last 12 months!!! That is horrible!

If employee counseling is so important, and really quite easy, why don’t leaders do it?

My guess is that you are lacking three things in order to counsel your subordinates:

1) The knowledge of how to give feedback.

2) You don't have the time. Really it is that you haven't made employee counseling a priority. If you need to find more time in your day, here are some great techniques on effective time management.

Lastly, the conviction to help their subordinates to improve. It is uncomfortable to counsel. Confronting someone on areas of improvement is tough. Plus, you have the excuse that you are not being counseled. Tough rocks. If you are in a leadership position, you have the obligation to make your subordinates better. Not just the obligation to your employee, but to your subordinates as well. Follow this link for additional information on a leader's role and responsibility.

Okay, here is the "how to" give feedback, ready?

Start; Stop; and Continue. That’s it. That is all there is to it. It is that simple to counsel one of your subordinates.This is that I want you to "start" doing; This is what I want you to "Stop" doing; This is what I want you to "Continue" to do.

Bam, your employee counseling letters are done in three paragraphs. (Check with your HR department. They probably will want some legal mumbo-jumbo on it as well.)

The only other thing you need to know how to do when conducting employee counseling is to send “I” or "We" messages and not “you” messages. This will take the "painfulness" out of the whole process.

Here are some examples of "I", "We", and "You" messages:

You message: You need to try harder.

I message: I think that by trying harder, you could have more success. 

See how the “you” message sounds like an attack, and that the verdict is already out? Who knows, something may be going on in that person's life that he or she cannot try any harder. By adding “I think” it softens it because it is not an absolute. 

You message: You are distracted and unfocused.  You need to focus.
We message: How can we work together to help you be less distracted and more focused?

Again, it is not an attack, and it opens things up for discussion.

You message: Your numbers are down from last quarter and must improve.
I and WE message: I not comfortable with your numbers. They are down from last quarter and need to improve.  What can WE do to improve them?

You message:  You forget to send me that report.

I message:  I still need that report.


Again, it is not a personal attack. The subject of the sentence is “I.” It is not about “you” it is about “me” (“I”). On the other hand, if the guy is a shit-bag and you want to get rid of him there would be no pussyfooting around and his counseling statement would read:

“You need to try harder. You are distracted and unfocused, your numbers are down and they have got to improve.  Please don't reproduce and spread your flawed sales-genes any further into the human species."

Do you see how an “I” message is less direct, less assuming and less of a verdict? "We" message takes on the tone that you are a teammate and working with that individual to improve. “I” and "We" messages are psychologically more accepted than a “you” message.

See how to give employee feedback so it is not so confrontational?

“You” messages are perceived as more of an “attack.”

I save my “you” messages when I want to cram something down a subordinate's throat so that there is no doubt they received the message licky-chicky (loud and clear).

If you would like an example of a real-life counseling letter that I did using the Start, Stop, and Continue format, use the form below, or continue on down this page for further discussion on formal and informal counseling.

Example of a Start, Stop, And Continue Counseling letter
Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.
First Name*
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Formal and Informal Counseling

Formal employee counseling should be conducted annually at a minimum. Put in on your calendar right now Sally, otherwise you may never do it.

Informal counseling should be done whenever appropriate. Informal counseling only requires one of the three components of Start, Stop, and Continue.

All too often employee counseling has a negative connotation. Informal counseling should also be positive, not just negative. If you catch someone doing something good, take 30 seconds and tell them to “continue” what they are doing. Some people do not know if they are doing things right, they just do them. This immediately gives positive reinforcement to behavior you want and it took you less than 30 seconds.

If you see something a salesperson needs to “start” doing or “stop” doing, make the immediate corrections and move on. Again, in 30 seconds or less you can help improve someone’s salesmanship.

The important thing to remember with informal employee counseling is "public praise, private correction". If possible, always point out the good someone is doing in front of one’s co-workers

Informal corrective counseling should always be done in private, away from peers or coworkers, and there really is never a time in which you need to yell.

I have been vigorously talked to by some great leaders. I’ve also been yelled at by some lil’ Napoleons. Getting talked-to by a great leader is 100-times more effective than being yelled at by some egotist.

Leaders counsel. They have the commitment to their people to counsel. They make the time to counsel. They know how to give employee feedback and they make sure their subordinates are counseling their subordinates and so on. Implement an employee counseling program in your corporation today.

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