Don’t dwell on what your employees did wrong in the past, but think of what you can do to help them change for the future.

Imagine telling your son on New Year’s Day, “Johnny, if you’re a good boy this year and do all the right things like keep your room neat and clean, Mom and I will take you on a dream-come-true vacation to Disney World® this December.”

When December arrives, Johnny has his bags packed and waiting by the door. He’s been so excited planning which rides he’s going to go on first that he hasn’t slept a wink for over a week.

You walk over to the door and ask, “Where are you going?” and he replies, “Disney World!”

“Son, I’m sorry, but you remember on June 15th when I asked you to clean up your room and you didn’t? Well, that’s why we’re not going to Disney World.”

Excuse me, how fair is that?

Well, it’s as fair as you waiting all year to let your employees know where they stand when all you do for feedback is an annual review. When you only review and comment on their body of work once a year, it creates a sink or swim situation where the results are usually unsatisfactory to you and to them. One of the best things you can do is to end your relying on annual reviews to evaluate staff.

The very best thing you can do is to commit to ongoing coaching that is both objective and immediate. This will have the greatest impact on improving your company going forward. To do this correctly, you must all agree on some measurable performance indicators that are both objective and fair.

Coaching & Feedback Tips:For instance, I recommend to clients that they take digital photos of what their techs should look like when they dress correctly. When they walk in looking like anything other than the digital photo, now you can sit down with the picture and say, “Tom, tell me how the way you’re dressed today is like the way you look in this photo.”

A couple of objective ways to give quick corrective feedback is to also take digital photos of what their trucks look like when they’re clean and neat and set up to standard. You also need to track weekly statistical performance indicators like total sales and total callbacks per calls run, which is what I call the callback ratio. Then, once a week have a coaching session on these performance indicators to congratulate or to coach improvement going forward.

Remember, the past is gone. Stop bringing up the ways they’ve let you down. The present is your gift because it’s the only time you really have to improve your future. The future is doomed to be your past without constructive coaching done on a timely basis.

Now is the time to act if you want a brighter future. Having a fair system that promotes accountability will highlight your employees’ weak and strong skills in the three critical areas of sales, operational and technical skills.

Coaching needs to be frequent and with the clear intent of putting into place a plan to improve going forward. The purpose is to narrow your focus to what actions they could take that would have a positive impact.

For example, you may see certain employees have low average invoice sales. You could role-play ways they can ask good questions and make good suggestions that provide the customer with solutions to his problems, which all leads to improving the average invoice sale. Conducting effective ride-alongs will also make a dramatic improvement in their sales.

To change the future, you need to let go of your tendency to dwell on what your employees did wrong in the past. Yes, you do need to follow the same steps of discipline for everyone every time to promote fairness and to weed out those who refuse to improve. But the emphasis is more on what they need to change starting right now and what you, as owners and managers, can do to help them get better both now and in the long-term.

Carrying along the past is akin to taking a walk and stopping every 20 feet to pick up a pebble. At first, it’s no big deal. But try stopping every 20 feet to pick up a pebble on your next five-mile walk. Not so easy, is it?

We carry along the freight of the past and it’s like pebbles in our pockets. Periodically, we need to pull over to the side of the road and dump our pockets. It makes our normally burdensome job a whole lot easier to do.

Be in the present. Past failures are worthy as lessons learned, nothing more. Fear of the future is unhealthy and unhelpful. Instead, spend your precious time, energy and money preparing today, in the present, for how you’re going to build your wonderful new future.

You’ll feel better if you follow these rules on responsive coaching.

You’ll provide the lesson of how to reach the good, and you’llenjoy the rideas well.