Last article we were discussing “How to give feedback employees will here?”  In that article, we used very objective examples.  It was easy to measure performance against technical tasks, but how does one determine SMART goals for soft or people skills?

Let’s review the same tips, but this time – with soft skills examples.

Setting the stage

Giving an effective feedback starts with understanding your employees’ goals and career objectives.  Once you understand the “why” the employee comes to work – the better you can connect the feedback to their goals.

For example, if they want to eventually lead the team or become a manager, then focus on the skill sets that will help them achieve those goals.

For example:  Managers require:

  • Problem Solving and Decision Making.
  • Planning
  • Delegation
  • Internal Communications.
  • Meeting Management.
  • Managing Yourself

These business goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant and Time bound).  With SMART goals, it’s very easy for both the employee and manager to agree whether the goals were met or exceeded.

Some examples of SMART PBC might be:

  • Successfully complete management courses XYZ within 6 months
  • Successfully complete time and project management course ABC within 3 months
  • Successfully participate and deliver executive summary reports in 3 executive staff meetings by Dec 15th
  • Speak at (at least) 2 technical conferences regarding how you solved a critical situation regarding this industry
  • Select and mentor at least 1 person to take over some of your coding, debugging and documentation tasks. Successfully hand-of at least one maintenance project to your protégé.
  • Create and implement an internal communication plan for your department within 3 months
  • Successfully project manage/schedule/budget 1 project start from finish (with supervision) during this performance period


As you can see, greeing upon this soft-skills SMART goals actually commits the manager to help her employee succeed.

Barriers to hearing

The most prevalent barrier to hearing and understanding feedback is our mindset.  The moment your supervisor releases a perceived negative comment, we automatically go into defensive mode.  Our brain immediately will find situations that negative what was just been said or provide detailed reasons/excuses for the events.

Best advice is to continually focus on the SMART goals or commitments set at the start of the year.  Use the agreed upon PBCs as your starting point.  Since your PBCs will have specific metrics and goals in place for each performance commitment, it will be easy to determine if the criteria has been met.

For example, If one of the PBC goals was to speak at (at least) 2 technical conferences regarding how you solved a critical situation regarding this industry – it is very easy to tell if they accomplished this goals.

Then simply ask the employee if he/she feels if they have met that particular goal.

Repeat this until all the PBC goals are reviewed.

Making sure employees get it

Once you and the employee have agreed upon the status of the PBC goal, ask their opinion on where to go from here.

For instance, if the employee agrees that he/she did not meet this soft skill goal – you can now start a discussion on where to go from here.

The discussion is focused on working on a solution together. Brainstorm on some titles and abstracts they can present.  Show him/her how to search for technical conferences in your industry and advise him/her to start submitting abstracts.  Once the abstract is accepted, encourage him/her to practice on co-workers and local professional organizations.  Encourage him/her to conduct a webinar or video their talk.  The more they practice, the better their soft skills.

As you can see – these discussions then become the foundation of their next PBC SMART goals.

Keep them involved

At the end of the day, keeping your employees involved and engaged in their own career development is key.


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