Honest and Kind?

A colleague of mine, Brian Goines, Sr., once said,

          “Using pretty words to explain ugly truths is exhausting.”

Half of the words in this quote are subjective, but I absolutely love this line.  Words like “pretty”, “ugly”, “truths”, and even “exhausting” mean very different things depending on context. This is why the work of Byron Katie is important.  The tool she uses is one of the most loving and kind approaches I’ve seen related to getting to the heart of the truth.  Interestingly enough, the user of her “worksheet” is almost always the one whose mind changes about the “truth.” 

As it relates to truthful feedback, the majority of those involved (giving and receiving) are not fans of it. Feedback-givers usually have several associates to provide feedback for within an often-brief time period.  As a result, they become overwhelmed and just want to get the task “completed”.  Those receiving feedback spend far too much time defending against it.  We try to find all the ways that what was said to us was wrong, ugly or untrue versus leaning in and attempting to find the truth in the statements and moving on. If there is no truth, file it away and move on.  If there is some truth, decide what to do with that truth and move on.  Regardless of the path we take, the key to moving forward is to MOVE ON.  However, we do everything but move on.  We stir.  We spin.  We obsess over what’s been said. 

Not you?

Then perhaps you are one of the individuals who came up with the adage “feedback is a gift?” 

A gift? 

Really? 

The gift I want to re-gift some time before the winter holidays roll around! Speaking in sweeping generalizations, I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of feedback givers.  There are people who give you the unbridled, direct, truth type of feedback.  These people, while honest, hurt feelings…often.  Then there are people who know exactly how to soften messages.  However, as Susan Scott says in her book, Fierce Conversations, they put too many “pillows” around the message.  Their messages are so soft that the receiver of the feedback is confused if he or she heard the message at all.

The solution?

Back feeding!  Back feeding is a flow of energy in the reverse direction from its normal flow.  The term is used to describe electrical energy.  However, it could be a useful term and process for resolving the feedback problem once and for all.  We know from research that good, solid feedback is helpful in development.  Therefore, instead of waiting for someone to offer it to you, ask for it.

Marshall Goldsmith introduced us to the practice of Feedforward, which is basically reversing the flow of feedback.  The receiver asks for the feedback.  Using this method, you restore your power and control your own destiny.  I love the Feedforward method but believe that the giver could still use some help.  Therefore, this practice should be combined with the Feedback Model of Alan Fine in order for it to really work because people have consistently demonstrated that they can’t handle feedback.  Here are the steps everyone should take to elicit direct, honest and kind feedback that is closer to the truth.

Backfeeding Steps

 1.     Celebrate yourself. – Share where you think you are doing a great job on a project, in a development area, with a team, etc.  You share what is working.  This step is important.  I often hear that people are frustrated with negative feedback because the other party never sees the positive.  Here’s your opportunity to get in front of that potential problem.

2.     Be open. – Be transparent about the areas where you are struggling (getting stuck) – you probably already know your own shortfalls.  That’s another reason we get peeved.  When someone shares our shortcomings, we resent them.  We say to ourselves, “What? Do you think I’m not self-aware or something?”

3.     Ask for advice. – Practice saying these words, “Based on what I’ve shared with you that is worth celebrating and the information I’ve shared about where I’m getting stuck, what is the best next step you think I could take to further improve?”  Here you have opened the door and made it safe for the feedback-giver to share.  Don’t forget that YOU decided to do this step.

4.     Practice! – Try it.  Do it a few times.  Reflect on what happens to your emotions.  Focus on the good suggestions you happen upon. Make adjustments that work for you and the people in your circles.

Following these steps will assist you with not only obtaining direct, honest and kind feedback, but also enabling you to receive it in a manner that is helpful to your development as an individual personally and professionally.

Professional Diet Killing You?

www.theoatmeal.com

A diet, by definition, consists of the things that we regularly consume to improve and positively impact our well-being.  Our diet is what we ingest, and most likely will determine our ability to perform.  Diets even impact the quality of our lives. Dieting to lose weight, especially excess weight, is designed to increase mobility, improve heart health, gain traction and lead a healthier life.

What is your professional diet? Are you on the “right” professional diet? 

Here are some questions to gauge if your professional diet is what it should be. If not, this is an opportunity for a new beginning.

1.     Are you carrying around professional weight or baggage that prevents you from maximizing your performance?  Examples of professional baggage include – a defeatist mentality and attitude; being constantly critical of peers and direct reports; unwillingness to share effective practices; exhibiting discriminatory and prejudicial tendencies; unwillingness to collaborate.

2.     Is your professional diet stale?  Have you had the same professional diet for years?  Are you unwilling to read up-to-date books/articles that are aligned to your professional practice?  Have you read relevant material in the past 30 days?  Do you examine and utilize leadership practices beyond your current professional arena?  Do you intentionally maintain a work-life—balance (self-care)?  

3.     Have you maintained the same professional circle or have you expanded to persons outside of your comfort? Outside of your childhood or college friends?  Do you surround yourself with individuals who are positive and solutions oriented?  Do you embody humility, understanding that data is important but at the end of every data point is a person (humanity trumps data)? Do you surround yourself with people who do not always agree with you?

4.     Have you sought professional development outside of the normal offerings?  Have you looked beyond professional development in your organization? Have you explored learning  opportunities that could be value-add outside of your region? Have you facilitated a professional development or provided thought leadership/partnership to peers or other leaders within the past 6 months?

5.     Do you verify that your claimed expertise in any given field is robust, relevant and authentic?  Do you share your knowledge? Are you humble regarding your abilities? Do you focus on the data to support your practices? Does your track record provide evidence of a solid experience?

6.     Are you setting and keeping the bar high for yourself and others?  Do you demonstrate shared accountability?  Do you practice empathy and compassion?  Do you allow the mission and vision of the organization to drive your behavior? Do you engage positively with ALL stakeholders?

7.     Have you selected a mentor who can provide the "right" and prudent professional guidance to you? Example; You are consuming cutting edge and up to date information, research, and other resources in your given field of work; your mentor is an expert, has a proven track record of excellence, is honest with you, and is available to you with consistency.

Leaders, I encourage each of you to make the necessary adjustments to your professional diet, and remember that if the leaders are not professionally healthy, the team or organization will need intensive care.

 Written by contributing collaborator  Dr. Ian A. Roberts (co-author of The Power of Seven Second Chances)

 

 

Leadership Lessons from the Tennis Court

Photo Credit: Montammy Golf Club

Photo Credit: Montammy Golf Club

I had never even been on a tennis court. The closest I’d come to playing tennis was watching Serena hit those 129 mph serves from the comfort of my couch.   However, the coaching guru Alan Fine proved that even something as physical as playing tennis was much easier when the coach avoids giving advice and coaches from an inside out approach instead. 

When I stepped on the court I had a million thoughts in my head. Why am I out here in my workout clothes? I don’t know these people. I should have done more crunches. Does this jacket make me look pudgy? I don’t know how to hold this racket? Is she recording? Then it happened – he pitched one ball. I use the word “pitch” because I hit it like a baseball – literally.

That thing went flying. 

You would’ve thought I was Jackie Robinson or Hank Aaron. The ball landed on another court. He threw another. The second one fared no better - think "home run." Now my mind was really going. You look like an idiot. Why did you agree to this? That’s what you get for always trying to be out front. Show off! Now look at you.

I don’t have these kinds of thoughts regularly. But this day was different. I was learning a new skill. Often when people are trying to learn new skills they have the same kind of stressful thoughts. Alan names these stressful thoughts "interference."

  • Then it happened. He focused me. He asked me about my goal. I said that I wanted to look like a tennis player at least hitting the ball on the correct court. He said ok and then offered no tennis advice. He focused me by saying, “When the ball hits the ground, you say ‘bounce’ and when your racquet hits the ball say ‘hit.” I’ve got it. This is simple. I can follow the simple instructions (not really instructions).

I did it.

Alan then threw me about 15 more balls and I hit all of them with 12 of them landing in regulation. Can you say “zero to hero?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know anything about the physics of tennis and all of a sudden I was self-correcting and hitting the ball.

What does this have to do with leadership?

Well not only did my productivity and quality improve, my spirit was lifted. I was so happy. My engagement was at an all time high. I had overcome, what I believed, was an insurmountable obstacle. Our people are no different. They are often struggling with all kinds of interference. Our roles as leaders are to help focus them in order to minimize the impact of whatever interference they might have - for our organizations and for them. 

We have to believe that they can do what we are asking but they lack the confidence or focused time to think it through. They already know how to be great. Using the GROW model as a tool to coach rather than give advice, is the perfect way to increase focus. Many leaders say they don’t have time to coach but what I learned on a tennis court in less than 12 minutes confirmed that coaching results in such amazing outcomes that we might consider abandoning all other approaches.

The steps are simple.

  1. Get clear on the goal.
  2. Use coaching questions to accelerate decision-making through focus.

If you want to know more about the InsideOut Development approach visit the site or read the book You Already Know How to be Great. Want to laugh? Watch my tennis lesson.

The Performance Review: It's Not a Report Card

The Performance Review: It's Not a Report Card

There are many different opinions about performance reviews. Some organizations have formal reviews once per year with a check point at midyear. Other organizations are being less formal and have gotten rid of the formal review process altogether in hopes that their leaders will have performance conversations at a regular, casual cadence. I have recently learned of an organization that has eliminated ratings altogether…kind of. See, the employees think they aren’t being rated but the leaders and HR professionals have a rating scale that is private. In essence, they are lying to the people. Why?