Receiving the F-word: Feedback

We get a lot of people asking us about the ‘F’-word.

Feedback

Almost every question we get is about how to deliver effective feedback. And that’s a great question.

Often overlooked and at least as important…

How to receive feedback.

People who receive feedback well perform better. They learn and grow faster. They develop more meaningful and more beneficial relationships. Their careers thrive with allies to push them along. Feedback fills in our blindspots, provides motivation, and nurtures relationships.

Today I’ll focus on the corrective kind of feedback.

(I’m not a fan of the concept of “positive” and “negative” feedback. It’s all useful. I prefer “corrective” and “congratulations.”)

So, a brief treatise on taking it in… without shouting the famous F-word in response.

What to do when receiving corrective feedback

  1. Assume positive intent. Decide as a matter of personal discipline that the person speaking to you intends the best for you. Usually it’s true. Even when it’s not, you’ll be well served to act and think as if it is.
  2. Say, “Thank you.” Whether someone is giving you kudos or correction, the first relevant response is, “Thank you.” Especially if someone is giving you critique, they’re taking a risk to provide you with input.
  3. Seek to understand. Do you understand what the other person is saying and why? “You need to do a better job connecting with the audience.” That could mean so many things… It could mean: a)Tell stories that relate to their lives. b) Choose a topic that they care about intrinsically. c) Make more eye contact. You can’t do anything with their feedback until it’s clear and specific. Help the feedbacker get there.
  4. Reflect. Reflect back what you’re hearing. “I think you’re telling me that they audience was disengaged because I was looking at my notes too much.” And, ask for examples from your behavior that reflect the criticism they’re offering. “When you’re telling the story of client success, you were reading the story from your notes verbatim. That’s a particularly important time to be a bit more off-the-cuff, and work on bringing the audience into your narrative.”
  5. Try it on. And… Don’t argue. Seriously. Don’t argue. You can take all the time you need to “try on” the critique you received — consider what parts of it may or may not be relevant to you. Take on what fits. Let go what doesn’t. Move on with your life. Remember, there’s not much feedback you get that doesn’t reflect some bit of important truth — at least in how you’re coming across.
  6. It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship. This is so important and powerful a principle, our entire “Fundamentals of Adeptability” workshop (the 2nd of 3) is built on it.  Don’t let the facts get in the way of the truth. The feedback we receive is rarely just about this moment. It’s a piece of a larger relationship. Feedback is a trust-laden exercise, and by your response, you’ll either invest in the trust account between you, or you’ll take a loss in that account.

I know…

This is an admittedly short and simplistic take on a complex subject. And like most things interpersonal — it’s also SIMPLE. Simple and DIFFICULT.

And receiving feedback well will serve you perhaps better than any other single skill you ever develop. And it makes you a safe and rewarding environment for others. It makes you a leader.

Try it. Commit to a significant trial period. If you’re like me, your ego will shout bloody murder. It wants you to fight. Or to flight your way right out of there. Have you ever watched yourself deny the validity of a criticism leveled at you, even when you knew it was right on the money? I have.

It’s profoundly powerful to stand in calm and to thank instead.
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If you’d like more on effective feedback — give and take — check out this past episode of our podcast, Mighty Good Work. https://www.theyesworks.com/business/mgw-16-drive-learning-and-growth-with-elaine-lin-hering/


Team Maintenance: Teams Need Tune-Ups

Team maintenance is easy to overlook. You’ve got stuff to do. Your team has stuff to do.

THE PROBLEM

People are the best part of your business, and they’re the hardest part. Your team has an operating system, an engine, that defines the way it functions.

Company culture.

And Deloitte gives us a few striking statistics:

  • “94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.”
  • While they know culture is important, fewer than 1 in 3 report understanding their company’s culture and the forces that shape it.
  • And only 12% of executives believe their company is driving the right culture.

“Driving” culture is an interesting and apt analogy.

A great team is a high performance machine — like a BMW. And like most drivers, most leaders don’t know how to keep what’s under the hood in great tune.

And that’s nobody’s fault. It’s why there are mechanics in the world.

Unfortunately, most leaders don’t do much to keep the machine in tune. They leave it to chance.

THE SOLUTION — Team maintenance

Get that hood open. Make sure the plugs are gapped correctly. Insure the timing is tight. Deliberately install the culture you want, and maintain it carefully and consistently.

As a high performance machine, it has narrow tolerances and the habits your people bring from outside will press against your efforts. You’ll notice significant entropy, dragging down on performance, engagement, and satisfaction of the team. Invest in Team maintenance.

Rather than being frustrated, you can choose to expect that. And accept that. Just as BMW drivers accept that a high-performance machine needs frequent attention to maintain optimal performance.

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM

Some leaders are culture geeks. They’ve studied the science and they fanatically follow the emerging data. They put as much attention on the culture as they do on the technical aspects of their business.

Others don’t have that geek-out level of interest and insight.

Neither is a better or worse leader.

Just as there are tech CEOs who are coding geniuses, there are also tech CEO’s who can’t write a single line of code. Their strength is in knowing which they are, and getting the right support where their knowledge and interest is thinner.

And the first kind — the geeker-outers — can only be that person up to a point. When the company grows, they need to find ways to scale their influence.

And when you need help, The Yes Works is here to provide training and support for World-Class collaboration on your team.

 

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


How to deal with fear of the unknown so work can be fun

Fear of the unknown is one of the great performance killers. It doesn’t have to be.

Embrace the Fear

We’ve got a choice. We can freeze. Or flee. Or fight.  Most of us clench our jaw, grit our teeth, hold our breath, and try to face down the fear.

That’s the circumstance in which fear compromises our judgement, makes us touchy and reactive, burns us out.

What other choice have we got. We’ve got the hard choice. We can embrace fear. Decide it’s our friend.

Transform the Fear

Disarm Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the unknown can lose its teeth when we limit what aspects are unknown. When we can assure and reassure one another… We’re a team. I’ve got your back. You may falter, but we will not allow you to fall… When those are the circumstances, that’s enough that’s known to take the unknown in stride.

 

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Your team’s response to the unknown is a success-level determining aspect of culture. Culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build the got-your-back culture that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.

 

P.S. For another great insight into how to embrace the fear, gotta love this from Simon Sinek. “I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”


Why No Feedback Is Very Bad Feedback

We recently conducted a workshop on cultivating a high-performance, collaboration culture at HR West in Oakland. Here’s a teaser. Feedback is a critical component.

A Common Critical Feedback Error

At one point, a CEO in our workshop loudly bragged. “Here’s what I do. My executive assistant knows she’s doing a good job when she doesn’t hear from me. If she’s not doing well, I tell her exactly what she’s doing wrong. That works!”

That doesn’t work!

The absence of communication is indeed communication. The absence of performance input is indeed feedback. It communicates volumes. And here’s the thing…

You have absolutely no influence over what your silence communicates. You may think it communicates, “good job.” Not likely.

At the very least, it communicates a message that is far more complex than, “good job.”

And every time, it leaves lots of uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to fear. And fear leads to poor decision making and bad performance.

The Only Effective Feedback Is Deliberate Feedback

Check out this video.

And, please, Let us know what you think.

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Deciding to give more input to your team is a great start. And not all feedback is created equal. We’re always happy to talk with you about what it looks like to be a skillful performance communicator. This podcast episode with Elaine Lin Hering is a great place to start.

Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


Who Is Accountability For?

Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Who’s it for?

Accountability is one of the biggest concerns for leaders today. It’s a word I hear multiple times daily.

At The Yes Works, we very often get the question, “How do I hold people accountable?”

People resist accountability when they don’t trust the intentions of the person having that accountability conversation.

There’s Science

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek lays out the evidence. In many workplaces, people wonder whether they belong. People feel ill at ease, anxious, or concerned for their belonging or well being. In that context, there’s a neuro-biological imperative to cover one’s ass.

The brain biologically cannot accept accountability when it feels threatened.

A Powerful Context for Accountable Cultures

Accountability is not for the company’s or for the leader’s benefit. It’s for the benefit — pride, fulfillment, growth — of the person being accountable.

In fact, it’s best to shift one’s thinking away from “holding people accountable.” Shift to simply “being accountable.” That way, it’s an action and a choice of that person for their own sake. It’s not something that’s being done to them.

Would you rather BE accountable or be HELD accountable?

Check out this video.

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Adeptable teams are accountable teams. Accountability becomes something people crave, seek out, ask for. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a communication and collaboration culture as a matter of habit and mindset. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


Why Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Says who? Often, it’s said to be Peter Drucker — management guru for the ages.

Why? How does culture eat strategy for breakfast?

Who do you imagine will perform better… A team of competent, motivated, collaborators without a plan at the start of the day, or a team of arrogant, unmotivated, uncommunicative people who start the day with a solid plan?

Which team is going to have an easier time recruiting and retaining great people?

Important or Critical or Both

Strategy is very important. Culture is critical. Turns out, if you’ve got a great culture, you can set the team’s culture to work on strategy as priority number one. Then you’ve got both.

Catch some more of our thoughts in this here video.

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


Empathy Without the Pity Party Pitfall

Empathy is a relatively new buzzword in discussions of corporate leadership. And it’s a good thing.

Without empathy, leaders cannot profoundly effect employee engagement, motivation, and performance. With empathy, they can.

Empathy alone can be disastrous.

It’s important to be able to relate to one another’s feelings, to understand where one another is coming from, and to be able to predict what stimuli may lead to what responses.

Without other emotional intelligence ingredients, empathy can lead us to a pity party. I know what you mean. And, I feel for you. Moreover, I feel your pain. Of course these circumstances are hard. Those statements lead to connection. Left alone, they can lead to inaction and ineffectiveness.

And… Empathy + commitment to purpose = compassion.

Check out this video.

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Compassion is a key element of successful high-performing culture. And culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build leadership habit that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.


Help me leadership development hotline

A Leadership Development Tool for an Independent Problem-Solving Team

People often undermine their own leadership development by looking to established leaders for help solving problems that they can solve on their own. It’s a part of human nature, and a personal-risk mitigation play. “If I ask the boss for the solution, I won’t be responsible for any failure.” Put another way, “I won’t get it wrong.”

Usually, that’s an unconscious process. Consciously, it’s much more like, “I’m not sure how to solve this. I bet Boss does.”

The way we respond as leaders will determine the future of our team’s performance.

Here’s a tool that will help insure that your people will grow, improve, learn, and lead in their own right. It’ll free you up and leverage your experience so you’re enabling greatness at all levels of your organization.

It’s leadership development gold.

The Problem

Change happens. Surprises arrive. Problems arise. As leaders, our own response to the fear of uncertainty is often to step in. Take it on. Offer our opinion. Tell folks what to do. Control the situation.

Sometimes this deep executive involvement leads to a better resolution of the problem — not always. Almost always, it leads to an undesirable outcome. Instead of breeding confidence, capability, and independence, this style of leadership leads to dependence and self-doubt, and inhibits learning in our direct reports. It retards the leadership development of our team distracts us from the higher-level work we could be doing.

Here’s a valuable alternative.

The SMART Model

SMART is — I admit — a cheesy acronym — The cheese helps you remember, because if you don’t remember, you won’t do it.

So… The SMART Model.


S – Slow down. Giving them the answer may be quicker in the short run, and it will insure that you’d approve of the solution. It’ll also insure that they remain dependent on you for all their problem solving needs. This step is critical because by slowing down, you create the possibility of solving YOUR problem. The problem that people are coming to you. Giving them the answer is the easy thing. It’s addressing the symptom rather than the root cause.

 

M – Make it theirs. Try something like, “You’ve got a problem? Thank you for identifying that problem before it got out of hand. Keep me posted on your progress.” This communicates not only that you view the problem as theirs, but also that your expectation is that they’ll solve it on their own. You even seem to think they must only be informing you, because of course they’re not expecting you to bale them out.

 

A – Ask. Before they go, ask if they’ve considered this variable or that factor. Ask what resources they intend to employ. Ask to be kept in the loop. That way, you insure they’re thinking about the things you want them to be thinking about.

 

R – Reflect. Reflect some of what your experience has taught you. “Look out for this. Be sure to get input from here. When we did X once before, Y happened.” By reflecting your experience, you give them the benefit of your expertise in a way that supports their autonomy instead of usurping it. And they learn to think of you as a resource for learning rather than solutions.

 

T – Trust their judgment. At first, their solutions may not be as good as yours. Trust them to be good enough. You didn’t hire no fools. If their initial solutions are 75-80% as good as yours, you’re still ahead because your time is better leveraged doing the things only you can do. And as they learn and gain confidence by acting with autonomy, they’ll become more and more valuable to the team as their skills grow. And soon, their solutions will be better than yours. That’s the inevitable outcome of sound leadership development.

Your Challenge

Each leader faces their own challenge with one or more of these steps.

Some (like me) get impatient out of the gate. We don’t want to slow down. Giving the answer is so quick. Today. Tomorrow, when someone comes back again for our solution to a problem they can solve, it’ll be quicker again to give them the answer. And those times add up.

Giving over the problem to someone else is hard for some of us. Relinquishing that control opens up a world of uncertainty. Finding the questions to ask that help lead our people to their own best thinking is an advanced skill. Reflecting our experience without handing them the answer is also a fine distinction. And it gives others some of the power we’ve fought hard over a career to build up.

And Trust… Trust is a doozy for a lot of folks. “Prove yourself, and I’ll trust you,” we say. Problem is, no one can prove themselves if we don’t invest our trust in them in the first place. Trust is a verb. Extend it. Feel it later, when your people reward your trusting them by delivering results.

The Leadership Development ROI

Expect big things. Demand greatness. Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown — world renowned leadership development experts — call leaders who are willing to build the capacity of those around them “multipliers.” In their HBR article, “Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People,” They observed, “Under the leadership of these “multipliers,” employees don’t just feel smarter, they become smarter.”

The people on your team are smart. And you’re smart too. With a SMART leadership response to people who come ask you to solve problems for them, everyone’s smarts will soon be working full strength to help advance your company.

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Leadership behavior shapes and defines culture. Culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build leadership habit that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.


Unexpected Link Between Dress Code and KPIs

There’s a link between your company’s dress code and the performance of your team. It’s not what you think. It’s not that there are standards of dress that lead to greater performance. It’s much better than that.

The Dress Code Situation

For years, General Motors had a dress code in their employee handbook that was 10 pages long. Whoa.

“What’ll I wear today?” Glancing through the closet. “Wait a second, wait a second.” Sitting in the reading chair and picking up a ten pound employee handbook. “Gotta do a little source research before I dress myself today.”

What’s the unrealistic part of the short story above? It’s the part where someone reads a 10 page dress code. Almost no-one reads a 10 page dress code. Chances are, yours isn’t as long as that. Chances are, yours is between 1 and 2 pages long.

Chances are, even at 1-2 pages, you haven’t read it. If you have read it, you don’t remember what it said. And it’s not just the dress code that you haven’t read. You’ve only glanced through the entirety of the employee handbook.

There are employee handbooks in every workplace in the country simply gathering dust.

The Problem

The important problem here is not that your dress code has gone unread. It’s not the wasted paper or shelf-space. The important problem here is that even when you don’t read a 10 page dress code, it does profoundly convey a message deep into your brain. Two messages, actually.

  1. We don’t trust your judgment. You don’t know how to behave at work. You can’t even be trusted to pick out your clothes for work. So we’re going to spell out our expectations for you in exacting detail.
  2. We’re covering our butts in case we need to discipline, fire, or otherwise protect ourselves from you. The time may come when we’ll need to make a decision in response to your bad behavior. When that time comes, we’ll need to be able to quote chapter and verse so we can prove that you’ve been out of compliance.

The Solution

Mary Barra became the CEO of GM in 2014 and made an adjustment to the dress code that she called, “the smallest biggest change,” she’s made. She shortened the dress code to two words:

Dress appropriately.

When I suggest changes like this one — shortening the employee handbook, setting descriptive policies instead of prescriptive ones — my clients sometimes object.

  • People will interpret this policy wrong.
  • I will have to talk to people about these policies — talk to them about what they’re wearing, etc. I’ll be wasting my time.
  • Each manager may interpret these policies differently.
  • Managers may interpret these policies differently in different circumstances and with different people.

That’s right. each of these objections is true.

The ROI

Each of these objections is primarily a benefit.

  • When people interpret the policy wrong, that’s an opportunity to talk with them about the present circumstances and explain the impact of their interpretation and decisions. Meanwhile, you’re strengthening the relationship if you speak to them with respect, and you’re building their capacity to have strong judgment, influenced by yours.
  • Talking with people about the policies and impacts of different interpretations has the above benefits. That leads to greater engagement, better future decisions, and the incidental development of a leadership bench.
  • Different managers making different interpretations isn’t a problem. It’s flexibility. Small companies with strong cultures often falter as they become big companies. Part of this is centralized leadership that’s far from the front lines. Descriptive policies permit “local leadership” and “local culture.” While the culture is largely consistent because the policies and values are the same, it’s also flexible, permitting greater fit for the smaller climates within a larger company. And managers have a sense of ownership and pride that comes with decision making.
  • While there is some space for discriminatory interpretations and applications of subjective policies, that in turn is an opportunity to reveal the unconscious prejudice for an opportunity to address it. All of this increases feedback and growth. It doesn’t come without some risk. And profit always comes as a benefit of smart, calculated risk taking.

In an environment shaped by principle instead of rules, people are engaged and their performance improves.

So, if I were to make this recommendation in two words…

Principles first!