Categories
Coaching

Try it on for size

Once you’ve got the hang of gracefully accepting the gift of feedback, then consider a next step of trying it on for size. In the corporate world, we get a lot of “constructive” feedback, which is code for something the feedback giver thinks you aren’t doing particularly well.

The first reaction is the defensive denial, which we’re moving beyond thanks to the practice of graceful acceptance.

The next stage is the long form denial and rationalisation. That’s where we find some other reasons to discard the feedback provided. It’s wrong, misguided or doesn’t match my style. Very rarely that’s 100% true. What’s more likely is that it’s not fully wrong, nor truly correct. It’s filtered through the knowledge and bias of the feedback giver, so it’s right for them, but not quite right for you.

Speaking from personal experience, telling them where they are wrong doesn’t work! It’s a second order failure of the graceful acceptance model, it’s just delayed a bit from the initial sharing of the feeedback.

So, instead of discarding it or telling people they are wrong, what can you do?

Just try it out.

Find some low risk scenarios to trial it. Maybe you’ve been told that your questioning style feels aggressive, but you think you are just direct. Hold off questioning in a big forum like an all hands for a while, and instead try out some softer techniques in a team meeting or other small group.

Go heavier than you feel comfortable with. You are trying this idea on for size, and you know it’s not something you 100% agree with, so it’ll be tough. If you dial up to 11, then you’ve got a fair shake of hitting a 7 or 8.

Think about how it felt, see if you can get any specific comments about it, compare the inside and outside views to find the truth that’s somewhere in the middle. You blend this fresh feedback with your own values and styles, and find the right change for you.

The power move is to then take this change and show it in-front of the person who’s given the constructive feedback. You’ve wrapped it in your own authentic style, so are happy. They see a change, so they are happy the feedback was taken on board.

Finally, if trying it out really doesn’t do anything for you, then you are still able to “return the gift to the shop”, fully aware you gave it a fair shot.

Categories
Leadership

Showing Appreciation

If you are running remotely fully, or just more distributed than usual, then it can be tough to show appreciation in the ways that you are used to. The one that you’ve probably lost is the immediate positive feedback.

Giving feedback close to the event is one of the most important ways to make sure it’s understood and recognised. Giving a quick bit of positive re-enforcement on a good performance is especially beneficial. It’s the “Good job with the really clear chart on Slide 5” or “Great handling on the tough question from Marketing”.

You still need to give these little positive updates to the people you work with, but when there’s no corridors to walk around, it can be hard to find out the right way to do it.

It’ll depend somewhat on your culture, and on the meetings you are having, but you can consider these approaches:

  1. Just do the shout-out in the meeting. Works great for the truly positive and if the person you are praising enjoys the public recognition.
  2. Hold on for your next one-to-one. If you are having them weekly, then it’s probably still close enough to be effective. Grab some notes in the moment and refer to them in the session.
  3. Drop it in at the start of another meeting. You will be in and out of video calls all day, so pick a time when both you and the person you are giving the appreciation to are early to a call, and go for it then.
  4. Go big. If you’ve got a big all hands or departmental meeting, grab a few seconds in the appreciation section to recognise the great work.
  5. Send a note in instant messenger. This will be close to the situation, but can lose some of the emotion and meaning, so craft it carefully.

Five options to let someone know they did well, pick what works for you and which will also have the right impact on the person you are praising.

One final thought. Never ask for ‘a quick call’ from your chat software, especially if it’s the sum total of your message. That’s certain to put the fear into the person you are talking to. The unexpected escalation to a more personal form of contact is too often used for bad news, so avoid this approach wherever possible.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Accepting Feedback

A really great way to get a better view on the impact your actions have is to practice the art of accepting feedback.

If you are in the habit of blaming the messenger, then pretty quickly you’ll find that no more messages are sent. You’ll lose access to a valuable source of information and be making decisions on much shakier ground.

Of course, this is rarely a problem if the news is good! It’s very much a skill to practice when hearing something difficult, when the impact of your actions is at odds with your intent or when the messages don’t align with your view of who you are.

So, what’s the benefit?

If you accept feedback with poise and grace, then it’s likely that whoever if giving it to you will continue to do so. It builds trust that you can handle difficult conversations and that it’s worth continuing to have them.

Practice this skill as it can be difficult to master. If you’ve struggled in the past, then reflect on the reasons why. Do you leap to your own defence? Are you quick to point to your intent? Do you try to flip the conversation to your own hurt feelings?

To start with, try this. Thank them for the feedback. Then stop, and don’t attempt to address it immediately. If you need to, say that you’ll need some time to reflect on the thoughts they’ve shared.

Feedback is a gift, it gives you more information than you had before, about an area that may be hard for you to see on your own.

In the same way that a pair of socks for your birthday may not be the most looked for gift, so might any specific piece of feedback. You might plan to send those on to the charity shop the next day, but you’ll still thank the giver in the moment.

It’s about building the long term relationship. Remember that and you’ll be learning more about yourself and supercharging your journey of positive change.

Categories
Coaching

I’ll Know It When I See It

Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to tell if you’ve achieved your goal. If it’s measurable, if it’s concrete, or if it’s a binary yes/no outcome, then you will just know. You either get the promotion, or you don’t.

A lot of the time, you’ll want to work on something that isn’t easily measured. It can be anything from improving your presentation skills, to expanding your emotional literacy. What can you do to understand this growth and progression, without being stuck in an “I’ll know it when I see it” hole.

Self-Reflection – Do the thing you want to get better at. Have a tough conversation or give that presentation. Afterwards, write down what went well and where you felt there were areas to improve. Focus on those areas, do it again and repeat the cycle. This is great for understanding the things that you can see and recognise, and an excellent resource to take into a coaching discussion.

Feedback – Gather thoughts from a trusted partner. Sit them in the audience, then ask them what was the best moment of the presentation, and what was the weakest. This opens you to the views of others and lets you close down your blind-spots.

Surveys – In a leadership position, you might be lucky enough to benefit from the results of regular engagement surveys, or you may be able to run these following a particular interaction. These are sources of large sets of feedback with an aggregate view. The aggregation is key here. Don’t get hung up on outliers or single comments, but look for themes and trends to measure improvement.

Recognition – If you are the go-to person for a skill or a trusted source of advice on a topic, then that’s a strong indicator you are really great at that topic. If you don’t feel you deserve this recognition, then ask the people coming to you what’s driven that decision. This will really let you understand what’s helping you succeed, and to see the growth you’ve managed through the process.

If you are working to improve a skill or to make a change that’s hard to measure, then use these techniques to understand your progress. They are powerful tools for growth and learning that will turbocharge your journey to greatness.