Receiving feedback as a gift

Many people avoid feedback at all costs and view any review of their performance at work with fear and trepidation.  Whilst there is clearly a need for those who are tasked with giving feedback to develop their skills and competences in this area, the truth is that a lot of us simply fear what we perceive as criticism and all that this implies. There are many psychological reasons for this such as being worried about failure, denial of reality, concerns about accepting responsibility or the negative personal impact any consequences may have for us and our work. A number of things can support you on your journey to not only receiving feedback well when it is offered, but to ultimately seeking it out whenever possible. There is no failure – only feedback – Reframe how you think about feedback and view it as a learning and personal growth opportunity. Even if you performed a task to meet all expectations, there is nearly always something that could have been differently to come out in an even better place. Listen with an open mind – You are under no obligation to automatically agree with what the person giving you feedback is saying but don’t become defensive and automatically reject it. Repeat back what the other person has said – Paraphrasing what has been said allows to you time to digest the feedback and take it on board. It also shows that you have heard what the other person has to say. Stay focused on the facts – Not everyone is skillful at giving non-judgemental feedback. Remain aware of this and try...

If at first you don’t succeed…

This article and the tips in it have been contributed by our guest writer, Alysoun Sturt-Scobie. Perhaps sport and raising children have similarities to managing individuals and teams. When a child is learning to walk I imagine that you would want to encourage them to keep going with a big smile and positive words and energy. Consider the impact if instead, you turned to them after the first, second or third tumble and said, “Okay, that’s it; no more walking for you! Walking really isn’t your thing.” I can look at the details of a long-distance cycle race and think ‘Yikes, that’s going to be tough!’, and that will trigger a train of thought that suggests it will indeed be tough. Yet if I break the race down into different components, assess the hill profile, the distance between feeding stations, the flat ‘recovery’ sections, work out a training plan that supports what I want to achieve,  then my attitude to the race changes and I know that I can do it. I might not be the fastest but I will finish. When you fail to achieve something at the first attempt are you automatically a failure? I don’t think so. On a racing yacht you can often spectacularly fail with very obvious visible and audible results. Our skipper and crew created an environment in which mistakes could be openly shared and learned from; it was key to improving everyone’s opportunity for success and in fact that of our racing performance. Here are my tips to get the best out of yourself and the team: Know your own strengths and...

Have an all-round perspective and aim for outcomes in the common ground

If you stay rooted in your own opinions and have a narrow perspective on things, it can greatly limit your room to manoeuvre. Choosing to take a different view of a situation can greatly increase your choices and options about how to deal with it, increasing your confidence in dealing with potentially ‘difficult’ issues and relationships through a deeper understanding of what is going on. By having an all-round perspective, you can more easily identify the common ground where agreement and WIN/WIN solutions are likely to be found. Consciously choose to take a different view 1. First Position: Your own thoughts, feelings and attitudes from your own perspective. 2. Second Position: Stepping into the other person/s shoes, seeing, hearing and feeling the world as if you are the other party.  3. Third Position: Metaphorically stepping outside of the relationship and seeing both parties as if you are an independent observer. 4. Fourth Position: Taking the ‘systems’ perspective. In other words noticing how this relationship is linked to other systems, and creates ripples and effects in them. Here is a seven step exercise that will help you to practice changing your perspective on things. 1. Think about the situation from your own perspective. How do you see things? What do you think about the situation? What do you feel about it? What has been said by you / by others in the context of this situation? 2. Now step into the world of the other person and think about the situation from their perspective, from where they are, as if you are them (same questions a above). 3. Metaphorically step...

In a challenging conversation, speak and listen mindfully

Being true to yourself in a difficult conversation is both important and hard to do. You will get the best results and move forwards towards the best solutions if you can do this in a way that demonstrates empathy and compassion for the other person. Here are our top tips to enable you to both speak and listen mindfully.   Know your purpose and what you hope to accomplish – be realistic. Be clear about what you want to discuss but leave space for the other person too. Be open to listening and try not to make up your mind in advance. Have an inquiring stance – listen, watch, observe without judgement and without taking anything personally. Understand the other person’s perspective but base your thinking on as much evidence as possible and not assumptions. Be direct, honest and constructive. Take responsibility for your views, words and actions and don’t dither about getting any bad news out in the open. Give the other person space to react and express their views, even if they do this in way that perceive as negative. Listen respectfully to the other person without interrupting – repeat and paraphrase what they have said to acknowledge their contributions and make sure you have understood correctly. Empathise with the other person’s viewpoint (this does not mean you have to agree with it) and focus and what you are hearing. Separate out emotions from the people but acknowledge and respect any emotional energy that emerges. Give the conversation your full attention – stay neutral, supportive, compassionate and solutions-focused. Be aware of any cultural differences or variations in...

How to approach a difficult conversation

No-one actually likes having a difficult conversation. Indeed, most of us dread it and freely admit to avoiding conflict (or even the potential of conflict) at all costs. However tempting it is to put things off, it is healthier for you and your relationships in the long run if you learn how to approach situations where discord or disagreement is likely. The two basic rules are (1) change your mindset and (2) plan ahead. 1. Change your mindset Swap negative thinking for positive expectations The usual thinking before a potentially unpleasant conversation is negative. The more we think it will be “difficult”, the more this tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Expect a good outcome instead. Approach the conversation as… an opportunity to clarify, clear the air, find mutually beneficial solutions, repair a damaged relationship, provide constructive feedback or to simply listen to what the other person has to say. Start from a place of respect and stay away from the “blame game” Truth can be subjective and there are often two sides to every story. Aim for respect and ask for respect in return. It is perfectly possible to empathise with someone’s emotional perspective and still agree to disagree. Focus on the facts not feelings; and judge actions, not the person. Look for solutions instead of just seeking to attribute blame Stop worrying about being liked and leave space for reactions Wanting to be liked can get in the way of delivering a tough message and make you nervous about how the other person will respond. You cannot control what the other person says and does, but you...

Spotting inauthentic communicators

It is sad but true – some people are good at pulling the wool over the eyes of others, and many get away with it for a very long time before being caught out. And while it is possible – in the words of the old saying – to fool some of the people some of the time, it is usually very difficult to fool all of the people all of the time. How can you tell? Lack of authenticity is likely to “leak out”, particularly when emotions run high or the situation is stressful. The tell-tale signs are to be found in inappropriate word choice or non-verbal signals that indicate what is really going on in someone’s mind. Here are some signs you can watch for. Many of us are instinctively alerted by them without needing to raise our conscious awareness. Taken individually, they may mean very little but if they stack up and come at you in groups of three, four or more, then there is likely to be some foundation for feeling uneasy. Unnatural repetition and emphasis of the same words: this happens almost as if someone is trying to convince themselves as well as others. Talking excessively and providing too much information: elaboration is sometimes thought to be convincing but too much is suspicious. Mismatched words and non-verbal signals: a disconnect here should sound the alarm bells – the non-verbals are likely to be more trustworthy than the words alone. Too many pauses or delays in responding: we all need a bit of thinking time occasionally but the delay needs to be appropriate in the...