Posts Taged feedback

Weekend Love, September Fifth

iStock_000042621008Here are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently. This handful of links takes you to tools or insightful content. Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file if it fits the mood.

When confronted with change, our first reactions range from head-in-the-sand to raging battles.  Susan Fowler asks three of the best questions for a situation like that when she writes about Thriving in the Midst of Change: Ask 3 Questions.

The opening paragraph starts, “Fascinating leaders ask questions. The rest are dullards.”  How can you not want to read the article?  Join Dan Rockwell as he answers that age-old question about How to Become a Fascinating Leader.

I know that I am not the poster child for exercise and fitness.  I do that stuff, and hate it.  Mark Sisson finally explains why.  If you are like me, you can read how you got to this state and ways to get out of it in his article on Why Getting Fit Isn’t the Best Exercise Motivation (and 10 Better Reasons to Move Today).

Bonus Video:  Brian Tracy and his daughter, Christina, discuss his new book , Find your Balance Point.  It’s a great discussion about the stuff we know but don’t do on topics like harmony, being grounded, and working from your passion.  Enjoy The Secret to Finding Balance in Your Life.

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Weekend Love, July Eleventh

Breaking through the barrier of personal limitationsHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently. This handful of links takes you to tools or insightful content. Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file if it fits the mood.

Feel guilty saying, “no?”  Frank Sonnenberg helps you understand the trade-offs you are creating when you say, “yes” in his article, Say Yes to No.

When I first started to understand strengths, I realized that others couldn’t do what I see as natural and vice-versa.  Dan Rockwell peels back one more layer of insight into this perspective when he writes about The Power of Awkward.

Jane C. Woods has a singular focus—women thriving at work.  As she writes, “Women duet, men duel.”  She shares more of her very credible insights when she writes about How to Talk to the Opposite Sex!

Who doesn’t love Seth Godin?  Normally his daily blog is one of the quickest reads available.  Sometimes it’s not.  Reading Seth Godin is always worth your time, especially when he writes about The tragedy of small expectations (and the trap of false dreams).

From the archives:  Executive coach, Ed Batista, who also teaches at Stanford, has a one-hour webinar on Making Feedback less Stressful.  He also answers numerous questions.  If you put it with his article Make Feedback Less Stressful, I think you have at your fingertips just about everything you need to know of feedback.  Now to just do this stuff in the key moments.

 

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Why Wait for Feedback? Entrepreneur Version

FeedbackAs a direct seller, solopreneur, or entrepreneur, you probably don’t see yourself as having many opportunities to seek feedback.  After all, you don’t have any (or at least not many) employees.   First, the bad news:  when most of us ask for feedback we get an image of giving someone a loaded gun, pointing at our face, and helping them point the trigger.  Now for the good news:  It’s all in your head.  The way you treat the feedback is up to you.

Part 1 of Why Wait for Feedback? is all about the title.  Why wait?  If you ask for feedback you’ll improve your odds of getting useful feedback rather than worrying about it.  Part 2, Why Wait for Feedback: Company Version, provides some insights into ways that you can ask for and use feedback if you are in a company setting.

But what if you are an entrepreneur?  Feedback for an entrepreneur involves three groups of people.

Getting customer feedback makes you awesome.  I almost cringed when I included this one.  How many surveys have you gotten this week?  You probably can’t even log in to your bank account without them wanting to know “How did we do?”  In your case, however, you are reaching out differently.  You are not going to give a multiple-choice test designed to solicit 4’s or 5’s.  You are going to act like a coach and ask open-ended questions.  Your questions might include ones like:

  • How does our service compare to your favorite store?
  • What needs of yours aren’t we meeting?
  • What would you tell people about us?
  • What is one thing you’d like us to do better?

Ask whatever questions you need to clarify, thank them (don’t argue or commit to changing), and then ask somebody else.  When you discover the pattern in the answers, you’ll know what you want to do.

Getting Team Feedback Makes You a Leader.  Seriously.  You should see this as a no brainer item.  Find out how people want to be lead than then lead them in that manner. Then they will follow rather than leave. Some great questions to ask include:

  • Do you want em to push you, pull you, or get out of the way?
  • What do you want from me?
  • How can I support you in getting to the next stage?
  • What is one thing I can do to be a better upline (or leader)?

Again, ask whatever questions you need to ask in order to clarify, thank them (don’t argue or commit to changing), and then ask somebody else.  When you discover the pattern in the answers, make the changes to improve your leadership.

Getting vendor feedback gets you better service.  You probably think you are a great customer. They may see you as an arrogant jerk who is hard to please.  Don’t assume they love you just because they keep coming back to you for orders.  Ask your vendors.  Ask things like:

  • What can I do to make your job easier?
  • What do I need to do to improve our business relationship?
  • What do you tell people about us?
  • How can I be a better customer?

These questions are sometimes harder.  You probably don’t like to see yourself as a “servant consumer” when you think it is your right to command customer service.  Interestingly, when you become a better consumer you’ll get perks that you didn’t before.  Your vendors will give you early notice about sales.  They’ll send you free samples.  They’ll find ways to keep you as a customer.

So ask your vendors.  Find out what they tell you.  And when you understand how the people in their world see you, change accordingly.

If you want something different, you have to do something differently.  So take that first step to actively get feedback and you’ll be on the path to improving your business relationships.

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Why Wait for Feedback? Company Version

New Mindset New ResultsFirst, the bad news:  when most of us ask for feedback we get an image of giving someone a loaded gun, pointing at our face, and helping them point the trigger.  Now for the good news:  It’s all in your head.  The way you treat the feedback is up to you.

Part 1 of Why Wait for Feedback? is about making a decision to take control of your future by asking for feedback rather than just waiting.  Start by being brace and the rest of the pieces will fall in line.  Here are four guidelines to help you if you work in a company setting.  Part 3 will be for entrepreneurs seeking feedback.

Think future and not past.  The goal of asking for feedback is not to evaluate the past.  You really can’t change that.  Your goal is to do something better in the future.  So forget-about-it when thinking about the past.  You really don’t care if it was good, bad or indifferent.  Your goal is to get better in the future.  Marshall Goldsmith calls this process feedforward.  It’s a core piece of his coaching method.  He also uses it as a training exercise.

Ask, ask, and ask some more.  If you only talk to one person, you’ll get their opinion.  That may not prove useful and you really can’t evaluate their idea because you have a limited basis of comparison.  Instead, try this:

  • Make a list of people you trust and want to hear from.
  • Approach them individually for a conversation. (You might even set an appointment and tell them what you want.)
  • Say to them, “I’m looking to improve my workplace performance. Would you have a suggestion of something I can do better?  What’s one thing I need to keep doing?”
  • Thank them for their feedback. Don’t agree or disagree.  Just thank them.

Work with a coach.  If you are going to ask for feedback, you will need to do something with it.  A coach can support you in sorting this out, setting plans in place, moving forward, and helping you stay accountable to your change process.

Ready, aim, fire.  The important thing is that you make some changes. Jack Canfield first suggested this mantra as part of his Success Principles.  It works.  Take action, course correct, and then act again.  You get much further than being stuck in the planning phase.

If you don’t like the direction you are taking, this feedback process will support you in finding a new one.

The reward you get for seeking feedback is beyond what you can imagine.  Ed Batista describes it this way, “the most effective leaders build a culture and establish working relationships in which critical feedback is invited rather than squelched, appreciated rather than punished. Unpleasant truths are precious gifts, and should be treated accordingly. This doesn’t make the process fun–I can still find negative feedback hard to hear, even after years of dedicating myself to the process. But I value the lessons it brings more than I resent its sting, in part because I try to be open to it without allowing it to undermine my sense of self-validation.”

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Why Wait for Feedback?

Feedback creates improvementWhenever I’ve coached someone who works in a corporate setting, one of the most dreaded time of year for them is the “periodic review.”  I’ve never met anyone who looks forward to a review—even the ones who are sure that it’s going to be positive.

On the other hand, any coach will tell you that feedback is a key part of their job.  The ICF even requires coaches as part of their core competencies to be “clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback.”  Feedback is the straight line to self-improvement, unseen insights, and corrective measures. Unless you have feedback, you won’t change.

The core disconnect is that we often see job performance as different from feedback.  My guess is that this is true for people in both company settings and solopreneurs.  Just imagine how your life would be different if:

  • You ask your vendors for feedback?
  • You ask your customers for feedback?
  • You ask your peers, direct reports, and colleagues for feedback?
  • You ask your boss for feedback after you complete every project?

In short, you seek out reviews every opportunity that you can.

The results will be stupendous!

  • You’ll get so used to people telling you what you do well and what you can change that it will become your normal operating procedure. You will be on a slope to continuous improvement.
  • Your performance blind spots will get smaller and smaller.
  • You won’t worry about a bad performance review because either it won’t happen or you are prepared for it.

Regardless of whether you are in a company or own your own business, your change process starts at the same place.

Start by being brave.  Once you start down the path of soliciting feedback, it will get easier.  You just need to take that first step.  There’s an old saying: If you eat a frog first thing in the morning the rest of your day will only get better.  Eat your frog!

If you don’t like the course you are taking, this feedback process will support you in finding a new one.  This is part one of three parts on soliciting feedback.  Part Two is oriented towards people working in a company setting.  Part Three is for solopreneurs.

When will you eat your frog?

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All Feedback Is Valuable

Feedback is the lifeblood of adaptation.  You don’t know how well you are doing without feedback.  You also don’t know if you are really blowing it without feedback.  Last week, the article on Three Types of Coaching Feedback was about the value of feedback to coaches.  The value of feedback goes beyond the items in that article.  A broader life value to feedback is also worth recognizing.

Generally, we grow up thinking about feedback as being either positive or negative.  Positive feedback reinforces; we like positive reinforcement and want to do the same things again.  Negative feedback tries to extinguish activities.  Who likes negative feedback?  What happens is that we start to avoid feedback because we might hear some really negative stuff.  Our mental category for negative feedback makes us want to run away from it all.

Another alternative is to think of feedback as either positive or constructive. I was having a conversation last week with another coach about feedback.  She liked those categories because they either lead us to keep on going or to change our activities to a more positive vein.  In my mind, constructive is just another word for negative.

The most helpful classification of feedback is to call it either off-course or on-course.  Here’s two reasons why:

  • On-course or off-course distinctions remove the positive and negative connotations entirely. It objectifies the feedback rather than making it emotional laden.
  • On-course and off-course distinctions both set a path for your future.  Think of it this way.  You are driving in a strange city and think you are lost.  So you pull over and ask pedestrian for directions.  You don’t care if he says you need to go straight for two blocks or whether he says to take the next right and go two blocks.  You are getting directions in either case.

When you start to think about all feedback as a way to chart your course, then the feedback becomes a welcome part of your life.  The challenge to you is simple:  the next time someone offers you feedback, frame it as directions rather than positive or negative.  I guarantee that you will pay more attention.

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Three Types of Coaching Feedback

Positive FeedbackCoaches, especially new coaches, view feedback as a mixed blessing. They know it’s a key element for improvement but they fear being crushed by what clients have to say. Here are three ways to solicit feedback that are easier to take.

External feedback around the client informs you. When the client reports that people around him are noticing a difference, that’s telling you something as well. Performance reports, 360 surveys, and requests for coaching from your client’s colleagues all provide insights. Admittedly, these types of feedback are indirect indicators.  While they may not be directed towards your improvement, they have a high degree of credibility and truth.

External feedback from the client is invaluable.  The hardest part for new coaches is sitting in fearful anticipation about what will be given as feedback.  The problem is not the feedback; it’s the anticipation of feedback.  One thing that Ultimate Coach University student coaches have found is that written feedback carries less fear.  You are not hearing from the lips of your client; it’s not a knee jerk reaction. Instead, written feedback is designed to be more tactful and that makes it easier to take. Develop a quick one page email form that can be sent to your clients a few times during the coaching.  You’ll be glad for the insights it provides.

Internal feedback to you is integral to improvement. Unless you’ve stopped growing as a coach, you need to ask yourself some important questions.  Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did my client fully understand what he/she needs to change, improve, or continue doing?
  • Did my client understand why he/she needs to change, improve, or continue what he/she is doing?
  • Does my client have a sense of ownership for the plan and results?
  • Did I listen effectively?
  • Do I have a plan for reinforcing or following up on the coaching?

While you can talk harshly to yourself, you are more likely to find valuable answers to these questions that you will implement immediately.

Nothing can remove all of the fear surrounding feedback.  Once you start to become comfortable with your process, then the fear starts to dissipate.

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Creating Positive Results

I don’t think we realize how powerful we are in creating our environment.  As a coach, I often have to support my client’s in raising their awareness about the role that they play in their surroundings.  I recently came across some interesting research on this.  Ironically, one article was about how we can create a unproductive environment and the other was about how we have the power to create a positive environment.

Nathaneal Fast and Larissa Tiedens wrote an article for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2010 on “Blame Contagion.” We want to maintain a positive self-image so, when confronted by a threat to our image, we lay the blame off on other people or circumstances.  Let’s face it: the vast majority of us are above average, take responsibility for our successes, and put the cause for failures on our situation.  Fast and Tierdens look deeper than that:

  • When people blame others, we learn less and perform worse.
  • When we see others laying blame, we are more likely to do so as well.
  • We develop a goal of protecting our self-image.  In one sense, when we lay blame, we increase the likelihood that we will do it again in the future.

Fast and Tierdens do find hope through one of their experiments.  When we engage in self-affirmations  our need to protect our self-image decreases.  Self-affirmations are a shield against hits to our self- concept.

The flip side of blame contagion is what Shawn Anchor describes as The Happiness Effect.  It really is the flip side.  He looks at research on positive psychology that covers over 200 experiments and 275,000 people.  As he says, “Data abounds showing that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out.”

One of the easiest ways to produce a happy work environment is through positive praise.  For all practical purposes, that’s the same activity as the cure for blame contagion.  To prove the point, Anchor cites the work of Marcial Losada, “Based on Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful. This means that it takes about three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative. Dip below this tipping point, now known as the Losada Line, and workplace performance quickly suffers. Rise above it—ideally, the research shows, to a ratio of 6 to 1—and teams produce their very best work.”

I am fascinated to discover that solution to increasing positive results is the same whether the research is on negative or positive environments. Positive praise and positive self-talk will increase productivity.

What do you think?  How will this affect what you do as a coach or a leader?

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Determining a Return on Investment for Coaching

Return on InvestmentDetermining a coaching return-on-investment is a difficult process. As coaches, we are stepping into a complex personal and/or business environment and sorting out the investment return is very complex. As coaches, we want to be able to tell our prospective clients that it’s worth their time, energy, and money to invest in coaching.

As coaches, we can’t speak for an industry wide ROI.  However, we can certainly provide some information about our individual coaching for prospective clients.  Here are three suggestions:

Ask your clients for satisfaction and knowledge surveys.  Find or devise some surveys that can be used for a pre-coaching and post-coaching comparison.  When you do enough of these, the comparison figures start to become meaningful.  For example, ask your clients to rate their proficiency on several scales such as:

  • I set weekly performance goals.
  • I set a schedule and stick to it.
  • I recognize when my business and personal life are imbalanced.

Perform a 360 survey.  Most executive coaching involves a formal or informal 360 survey.  Set up the coaching encounter so you can perform one both before and after the coaching.  This will tgive you some indications of the leaders improvement over time.

Evaluate performance changes.  Most of my coaching is done in the direct sales profession.  When I work with a company, we often try to establish key performance indicators for a pre and post comparison.  Usually the company can perform a similar comparison on the people who don’t receive the coaching.  Thus, you can compare the changes of those people who receive coaching with those who have not.  One word of caution:  often the people who receive coaching are a self-selected and highly motivated group.  They might have outperformed the other group even without the coaching.

While we may not be able to produce laboratory certified results, our efforts to evaluate the ROI of our coaching will provide us with some evidence and insights.  Wouldn’t that be better than not even trying?  In addition, we may allow ourselves to receive some intuitive hits on ROI just ebecause of our heightened awareness and interests.  The process of studying your coaching may provide you with valuable feedback that you can’t get any other way.

What are you doing to evaluate your coaching work?  I’d love the opportunity to compare notes.

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Three Tips for Making it Easy to Give Feedback

Whether you are a leader of an organization, managing a team, or a coach, you will be giving feedback to others.  Remember that feedback can be “on course” or “off course.”  We receive these messages all day.  What is working and what is not working to get me to where I want to go is the purpose of feedback.

Here are three tips to make it easier for YOU to give feedback.

  1. Ask permission to give feedback. This helps many coaches to pause and think about their intentions and reminds both of you that the giving of feedback is a gift, not an instruction.  You might say, “May I give you some feedback that I feel might support you?”
  2.  Give your feedback in observation mode.  Feedback is your expression of an observation. External feedback, coming from you, is easier to give if you recognize that it is just your experience of that person.  Be mindful that your truth is “your truth,” not necessarily “the truth.”  Approach the feedback conversation with an attitude of observation, not criticism. 
  3. Concentrate on the behavior, not the person.  Before you give feedback, think about the behavior not the person.  “I have noticed you are not making the goals you have set.  Would you be open to some feedback about goal setting?” instead of “You aren’t cutting it and you need to change your ways.”

Try these simple steps before giving feedback.  Let me know how they work.

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