Monthly Archives: August 2020

3 killers of effective feedback

In the workplace, one of the essential management tools to develop an individual is the effective use of feedback.  Feedback is a great tool to help individuals identify and take steps to improve their skills and competencies.  As individuals we know that we need to continuously improve, develop skills and competencies for us to be effective in not just our current role but also future roles.  Therefore, if feedback is one of the essential tools, why is it that people shun it or view feedback through a negative perspective?

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There are many reasons as to why feedback is viewed negatively, these are just some of the top 3:

  1. Bad past experiences.  You had received feedback, which was negative, was vague and left you feeling confused and probably hurt.  The worse part of it, you had no idea what to do about it.  You did not know specifically what areas to work on and there was no assistance given to improve. Some bad experiences could be a result of feedback which was emotionally driven rather than objective and constructive in nature.
  2. Comments or opinions disguised as feedback.  Often, we are confused between hearing opinions or comments from people and placing those into the feedback category.  Feedback is distinctly different from opinions or thoughts or comments.  Opinions or thoughts are just that.  It is someone’s perspective and interpretation of an action or situation.  It is their version of the “story” vs. fact.
  3. Superficial feedback.  Feedback that only gives you high level statements that are not helpful to get to the heart of the issue for real action items and development to take place.  A common example of a superficial feedback is “Good work!” or “You need to improve in your communication skills.”  What does it really mean?  If the feedback is vague or too generic, it is hard to know how to put the right development plan in place.

Regardless of the above reasons, feedback is a skill that is learned.  Essentially there are 4 key elements to effective feedback, and they are:

  1. Specific:  Feedback needs to be specific and based on an observable action or behaviour.  Specificity helps to zoom into the action or behaviour that needs to be reinforced or rectified.  It is impossible to develop a competency without breaking it down to specific areas.
  2. Impact:  Succinctly explain what the action or behaviour made you think or feel.  what was the implication or impact to me?  This will help put the specific observable action into your perspective.  You can only speak for yourself so ensure that it is your perspective of the impact and not others.
  3. Acknowledgement:  This portion is to gain understanding as to whether what you have observed is acknowledged or identifiable by the person.  Once we can agree on the specific area, then we are able to move to the final step.  Acknowledgement and agreement is an essential step as this helps both the giver and the receiver of the feedback to understand, discuss and take the next steps.
  4. Joint Action:  This is key to enabling any feedback to take concrete steps to improvement or development.  It is a joint action plan as no one can improve on their own.  As a manager, you have the responsibility to help your direct reports to improve, develop and support their development plans.  One of the most impactful activity any manager can perform is to support your team in their efforts to improve.

Let us put this into a simple scenario. 

Manager:  I noticed that during your presentation you were moving around the stage a fair bit which was distracting to me and made feel nervous for you.  What do you think? 

Direct Report:  Yeah you are right, I was nervous and so pacing around the stage was my way of dealing with it.  I am not sure what I can do to manage my nerves.

Manager:  thank you for openly sharing that with me.  Let us think about some tactics that we could use to help you manage that and put a plan in place.

As you can see in the simple example above, it is rather easy to put 4 elements into any conversation but it will take preparation on the part of the giver of the feedback to be clear and succinct with the intention of enabling the feedback to its desired outcome.  The giver of the feedback must be willing to provide the support and help required which is the key to unlocking the effectiveness of any feedback.

To help you overcome the 3 killers of effective feedback, you will need to:

  1. Change your perspective around feedback.  No matter what your previous experiences are, the first step to being a better giver and receiver of feedback is to know that feedback is.  The intent or desired outcome of any feedback is to either reinforce or rectify a specific behaviour.  The process to achieving that outcome requires clarity and a support structure as an enabler.
  2. Learn what elements are required for effective feedback.  Nothing is preventing you from learning how to be an effective feedback giver and receiver.  There are countless books, papers, audiobooks, podcasts and so on where you learn and broaden your knowledge around not just this subject but any subject.
  3. Practice the key elements of effective feedback.  Just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced.  Its uncomfortable and unnatural at the start but you will over time figure out your own style and will become a natural part of your management toolkit.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  Ken Blanchard.  Just like the importance of breakfast, feedback is the key to any growth journey.

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3 ways to be a Great Follower

There is so much expectation and pressure on every one of us to be leaders.  In every arena, leaders are admired and respected and for the most part that is appropriate.  However, we have all experienced or know of leaders who have disappointed, misused their position and broke the trust of those who follow. 

I know that each of us aspire to be great leaders.  Leading people with charisma, integrity, and being inspirational and all things that are admired.  However, let’s face it, not every leader today has those qualities and not many are successful in that role.  There is one leadership role that we each play and that is to be the leader in our own lives.  We need to lead ourselves by continuously learning, developing, building our capabilities and skills with an intention to make a difference with the people that we do have in our circle.  We don’t need to be “in a leadership” position before we can make a positively impact on someone’s life.

There is one role that we all have and that is to be a follower.  No matter what level of leadership you are in, you are a follower of some kind.  The term follower has somewhat been turned into a taboo word.  A word that almost denotes that you are not as important or as good. 

In today’s “everyone must aspire to be a leader” culture, we have forgotten the importance and critical role that followers play.  If everyone is a leader, who are they leading?  Imagine the chaos in the workplace if everyone is a leader at the same time playing the same role.  We have undermined the role of a follower and in fact made it into a taboo word that only someone who is “not good enough” to be leader naturally falls into the “follower” role.

I would like to change that perspective and identify 3 key areas that makes for a great follower.  Yes, not just a follower but a great follower.  Before we do that, I want to demystify the word follower.  A follower is someone who follows a leader, but a follower is not someone who has a lower IQ, less skills or lower competencies but different set of competencies that might not fall into the leadership category of competencies.  In fact, whether you are leader, or a follower depends on the situation, roles to be played, expertise or skills and environment.  For example, you could be a great business leader but if you are in the jungle and needs to survive, you might be best suited to be a follower of a someone who knows how to survive in the jungle.

A great follower should have these attributes:

  1. Great individual contributor.  He has his specialize set of competencies, performs his role well, works well with others and is well respected.  He knows that he is competent in the area that he is working on, loves what he does and does it well.
  2. Confident and adaptable.  He is confident in his own abilities, has strong sets of values that he lives and works by and is therefore comfortable with change, thinking out of the box and is adaptable.  In today’s ever-changing landscape, to have a follower that is adaptable is an enormous asset for any leader and organization.
  3. Challenges constructively.  In any discussion or brainstorming session, there is a great need for people to think out of the box, to share perspective that not tunneled by the organization’s culture, to help the leader by challenging assumptions and cultural norms all with the purpose of getting the best possible solutions for any problems.  Followers are not to just blindly follow whatever the leader decides but to follow with commitment and conviction and that can only occur if the solution is agreed upon and is in alignment with the company’s values and goals.

Think about the role that you are playing today.  Are you a leader?  Are you a follower?  Are you a leader/follower?  I dare say that for most of us we are in the hybrid role of leader/follower.  We are leaders in a certain area but are followers in certain situations.  To be the best leader/follower is to understand and value the role of the follower.  If we only value the leader, there is a misalignment in the essential role that a great follower would play.  In fact, the world has more “followers” than leaders.  I know that in my “leader” role, I love to have great followers which those 3 attributes as mentioned above.  It is challenging but extremely rewarding when the team is performing at its best level.  That happens when we are comfortable with playing the most appropriate roles depending on the situation. 

Micro-changes that Transforms

  

We live in a culture where we celebrate major milestones, major achievements and everything that is big and great.  And so we should.  We should acknowledge and celebrate those big successes.  However, on the downside we have neglected or overlooked what it took to achieve those big successes.  We have forgotten to recognize the micro changes that went into achieving the success.  We have put less emphasis on the small steps that it took to achieve a giant leap.  We all strive to achieve the major without realizing that it’s the micro that is required to make the major.

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There is no success without small steps taken.  In fact, micro-changes are required before you are able to even observe or experience any changes.  A very simple example and experiment that you could do today. For a day, perform all the task that you would normally do but with your non-dominant hand.  Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.  I have no doubt that you would feel extremely awkward.  You would require extra focus and concentration in order to get a simple task that is habit for you to be completed.  And even when you do finish brushing your teeth after all that effort, it was probably not a very good brushing for your teeth.  And then try the next task, combing or brushing your hair.  How did that feel?  Try eating with the other hand, slicing an onion, cooking an egg and so on.  You will realise that something so insignificant could actually be so difficult.  That one change in how you would perform your everyday task took a lot more time and effort.  It was harder and uncomfortable.  It was outside of your comfort zone.  It was a micro switch in your mindset.  By the end of the day, you will realise that even just one small change, a micro change, the implications and impact can be great.

I did that above experiment and so through my experience, I have learned these 3 simple facts:

  1. Micro-changes can make an impact over a series of actions and time.  All our habits and actions are a result of micro-changes that we made at one point in time and repeatedly being practiced.  We are an accumulation of micro-changes.
  2. Micro-changes require intentional and deliberate thoughts and actions.  Even though they are micro or small in nature, our minds still require a lot of effort to focus and be intentional in making the changes. the difference is that because we perceive it to be small therefore simple and therefore possible.
  3. Micro-changes can transform your mindset and life.  These micro-changes over a series of intentional changes can be transformational in your mindset of growth.  Your mindset will determine how you view youself and the situation around you.  Your mindset will shift from tackling a big task to breaking down the task to smaller more manageable components.  Not many people are able to change their actions or thoughts easily.  It is through small steps or micro-changes that accumulates over time and perseverance that achieves noticeable changes.  

For most of us, we don’t even attempt to change a habit or toxic thought because we believe that it’s too hard.  The image of success is too far-fetched and impossible to achieve.  However, if we change our mindset to break down the challenge into micro-changes, the goal becomes easier.  For example, when we are at the foothill looking up to the summit, we think that it’s so far away, too hard and almost impossible to achieve.  However, if we just look down and focus on one step at a time, as we walk, the summit looks slightly closer than before you started.  Eventually over time and yes effort, you would probably be able to reach the summit.  There are many times when faced with challenges, I feel defeated even before starting.  The challenge looks impossible to overcome.  However, I also know from experience that through commitment and determination and making changes along the way, I am able to overcome and achieve the goals set out before me.  

These micro-changes in your mindset are critical to help you create new habits, change behaviour and transform your outcomes.  The most powerful transformation is viewing changes through the lens of micro-changes.  This makes it achievable and possible.  Making micro-changes is far easier that making big changes.  Your mindset or perspective can be transformed exponentially just with a micro-switch.  

The ripple effect of micro-changes can be huge if you persevere and practice.  Practice makes permanence (not perfect).  Practice as a result of micro-changes can make permanence the actions or habits that you want to create or change.  More importantly the transformation of your mindset will be from the negative to positive.  From “no, its too hard” to “yes, its possible if I take small steps”.

Give it a go and discover what you are able to learn from this experiment and experience.