Give feedback effectively

What is feedback? The information given to an individual or a group about its prior behaviour and the consequent impact, so that the individual or group may adjust or reinforce its current and future behaviour to achieve a mutually agreed or desired result. There are many misconceptions about the practice of giving feedback. Some people see it as an opportunity to make a judgement about the other person or what they have done; they use it as a vehicle to tell them how to be something else or to do things in what they consider to be a better way. Very often feedback is only given when something goes wrong. To the contrary, feedback can and should be used as a tool to improve and maintain performance as part of an overall personal development process. The right kind of feedback can actually reinforce positive behaviour and actions, as well as draw attention to anything that is ineffective and that stands in the way of achieving good results. The fear of giving feedback is linked to a number of different issues: The practice of giving feedback is too often restricted to the annual performance review. This makes giving feedback more of an isolated event, separated by distance or time from the events to which it is related, and it is then approached with some trepidation by all parties. Replace this with the habit of offering regular and frequent feedback to those with whom you work.  Praise them for their accomplishments and achievements as well as making suggestions about how things could be done (or could have been done) differently. This...

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...

Feedback as an opportunity for coaching

Prepare to step into a coaching role and switch from just telling to asking There is always likely to be some resistance to top-down solutions no matter how well-intentioned – and this is definitively one of the limitations of the STAR model. The approach of the STAR is essentially one of telling and this may have a negative impact on the engagement and potential creativity of the person receiving the feedback. Applying the model simply as written also leaves no space for the person being given the feedback to come up with their own suggestions. The result is to close the door to the exploration and integration of any more creative options that, after discussion and consideration, might lead to an even better outcome. We encourage you to make the switch from the traditional way of giving feedback to a process that permits you to step into a coaching role, using questions to nudge the person to whom you are giving feedback towards their own solutions and multiple options for moving forward. This means retaining the first phase of the traditional STAR model for feedback and then diverging to allow active participation in the process from both people. Here is an outline of the kind of conversation this would entail: STATE THE FACTS: objectively and non–judgementally, describe the Situation, the Task, the Action and the Result (impact). DEFINE A (NEW) MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME: discuss and agree any essential revisions to the previously achieved Result. Sample coaching questions: “What would have been / be a better outcome?” “What is it that you / we would like to achieve now?”  ...

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...

Make a brand new ending for yourself

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the ending” CS Lewis When I applied to compete in the round the world yacht race, I had never sailed before. When I completed my application, I nearly typed “I can’t sail” and that’s a great example of the power of your mind. If I had truly held that belief, then I would never have signed up. I certainly did not know how to sail a 70 foot racing yacht. Yet I believed that due to the transferable skills I had from my various life experiences such as the ability to learn new languages, then I could certainly learn the language of sailing vocabulary. Also, if I had learned how to race up hills on my road bike and ride for over 150km, then I definitely had the skills of balance, stamina, strength and resilience which would be invaluable during the race. I had never even tried to sail, so how would I know that I “couldn’t” do it? As it turned out  I am pretty good up on the foredeck, not so good up the mast and in a racing scenario someone more adept than me would be better on the helm. I did in fact race over 43,000 nautical miles in 11 months – not bad for someone who nearly wrote that she “can’t” sail! Do you sometimes have that monkey on your shoulder – also known as the negative voice in your head – that tells you that you shouldn’t or can’t do something? That voice might stem...

Be clear about your outcomes…

         …and how to get there! This article and the tips in it have been contributed by our guest writer, Alysoun Sturt-Scobie. How often have you said to your partner (or vice versa) something along the lines of “It’s cold in here,” and they disagree with you. And then that disagreement leaves you frustrated whereas if you’d asked, “Would you mind closing the window (turning off the fan etc….) because I feel cold,” the outcome would probably be much different. They might suggest that you go and put on another jumper but at least you will have been clear about the outcome you have in mind for yourself – to feel warmer. It can be easy in this kind of situation to cloud your communication by falling into patterns of behaviour that are not very helpful when it comes to finding mutually acceptable solutions. Perhaps you’re familiar with the drama triangle, a situation in which three roles play a part: The Rescuer: this is the person who often likes to “make things right”, to sort things out for others. The Persecutor: the person who tells you it’s always someone else’s fault (and if you’re the rescuer, it’ll very often be you) The Victim: the person for whom everything goes wrong, “It always happens to me”, “I just can’t, it’s impossible”…. Recognise any of those characters? I certainly used to be the Rescuer; I loved helping people out of their difficulties or ‘rescuing the situation’. I used to think it was a good thing to do until the Persecutor told me that I was wrong and that my advice hadn’t...

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...

The coaching mindset

Acquiring the right mindset for using leadership coaching skills as a leader is a conscious decision and a choice that must be actively made. It presupposes that you stand firmly behind the belief that a coaching approach adds value, that the other person has something valuable to contribute and that it is worth exploring ideas and options. It requires going beyond the obvious and believing there must be more. Curiosity for other people’s ideas and thinking is essential and this leads you to really listen to what they have to say. Additionally, you accept that your own ideas are not always the most important ones and you are willing to have your ideas evaluated on an equal footing along with any other options that have been generated. By choosing to set aside the need to always tell and instead facilitating and soliciting the input and contribution of others, there are huge benefits to be gained. Benefits for you as a leader Your impact on those around you gradually changes and people start reacting more positively to you. In creating the space for other people to express their thoughts and ideas and value their contribution, you are seen as a catalyst for change and bigger thinking. The potential for success for you and the team is greater as everyone is involved is making a more significant contribution towards achieving results. Benefits for the people you coach The impact on personal growth and development for those you coach is destined to be high. Being encouraged to make a contribution fosters the ability to think and leads to a greater sense of...