I said the wrong thing

This week’s experience of what could be counted as ‘saying the wrong thing’ gained alot of interest in my weekly newsletter. Have a read and see what you think. And if you want to subscribe to get this kind of content each week, the link’s at the bottom.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind read more

You’re good enough as you are – but here’s some feedback

The other day I wrote this piece about how we are all absolutely OK. We just forgot it.

This has been a new realisation for me thanks to learning about the Three Principles with Piers Thurston and this particular realisation has helped to settle a paradox that I used to just accept I had to hold both ends of.

That paradox was that I would hear people say “you’re good enough just as you are” but then I would hear and see others doing or saying things – maybe about their own work or feeding back to me – which would suggest I “should” be doing or behaving in a different way. So…I’m good enough as I am…..except when others (or me to myself) lay down a judgement and then I’m not good enough, I’m imperfect in some way and I “should” change and do something different.

Now…..the paradox has dissolved.

Two key realisations have been part of this happening….

One is that I had a deep whole-body realisation that I’m actually, deeply, fundamentally OK. I am already a whole person. Good enough just as I am. I truly “see” that. I don’t just hear the words at an intellectual level.

Two is that I see that everything I have ever experienced has been from the inside out. So all those times when I’ve thought I “should” be doing something because of what someone else is telling me or what I’m enviously seeing others do, have been created by me. Self-imposed “should’s”.

And the result. The paradox is gone. I am deeply, fundamentally, good enough as I am and I know I have an innate capacity to be creative and resourceful which means I will keep moving forward, learning, improving and creating with the goal of making a positive difference. But not because I “should”, instead because it feels like the most natural and obvious thing to do.

 

[Photo credit : https://unsplash.com/@rohanmakhecha]

Stress Test Your Foundation – Ask for Feedback Every Day

On the final day of entries for the #cipdldshow #blogcarnival I’m delighted to host this piece from Melissa Sabella who shares a powerful personal story which emphasises why – if we want to learn every day – we need to seek feedback and create environments where it’s given without fear……

 

I had this manager, early in my career, who always got the best out of me. I didn’t realise how rare this was at the time, but I actually looked forward to her emails. I didn’t quite get why I worked so well for her and struggled with other managers until she gave me some advice: don’t ask a question unless you are genuinely interested in the answer. Suddenly I realised why I always looked forward to our interactions – because I felt my expertise and opinion were valued. Importantly, I also never felt like she was testing me or trying to ‘catch me out’ These days we call that psychological safety and it’s one of the few research-backed ways to create a high performing team.

Creating psychological safety formed the foundation of my management and leadership philosophy. I was 100% confident that I was executing it until an offhand comment from a member of my team. He told me that when I asked a difficult question he felt I was looking for a particular answer, and judging him until he got it right. Shocked, I interrogated everyone.

It turned out I was making a face. A face known to my team as “the Melissa face” or “The Eyebrow”, which intimidated my team into talking until they got the answer they thought I wanted. I was oblivious to something completely obvious to everyone around me and I was driving behaviour completely counter to my intentions.

So, I asked for help. I told them to let me know every time they saw the Melissa face.

Turns out there was some psychological safety on my team, because the next time I did it I had fingers pointing at me in triumph and shouts of “there it is.”  And because I had real time feedback I had an epiphany – this face was my thinking face. I made it when someone challenged the way I thought about things. Ironically, the moment I was most impressed with someone’s input and wanted them to continue…they were reading as negative feedback and shutting down in response.

This shook me to the core but also thankfully helped me correct something very important to me.

Critically, it made me realise the importance of 1) creating an environment where critical feedback is given and taken in good humour 2) asking the right question – people have no idea what you are trying to do and can’t tell you whether you’re successful unless you ask and 3) always asking the follow-up questions – have I become better?

My unsolicited advice? There is no shortage of learning to be had – it comes at us through a fire hose of well meaning vendors, personal learning networks, social networks and the publications we follow. But the most valuable learning happens when you ask the people around you for feedback on the things that are most important to you. Do it daily.

 

[Image credit : www.fastdecals.com]

Ignore Poor Performance at your Peril!

How often have you seen or heard this?

They’re just no good at their job, I keep having to pick up the slack?  I haven’t got time to do my own work because they’re incapable of doing their’s.  If only they could sort it out we’d all be better off.  I don’t even know why they’re still here – they don’t contribute anything.

Back in April and May it was #FeedbackCarnival time where the culmination of many brains showed just how challenging giving honest feedback can be and some ideas for how we can start to change that.  Ian Pettigrew built on this with a great model for where helpful feedback sits – the top right of this 3-by-2 – where what you’re saying to the person is true, and it’s said with a positive intent to help the individual, as well as and the team or organisation around them.

Trouble is, that’s not generally what’s happening.  What I see is people pointing the finger at ‘those people over there’ – They’re the problem. If it wasn’t for them we’d all be ok.

head-in-hand -kg

This feels to us like the best (easiest) option because it avoids us having to look at ourselves as a potential contributor to the problem – and therefore a potential solution.  Looking at ourselves can be uncomfortable.  And, if we don’t feel safe and supported to do that, we’ll just avoid it.

But not only are we pointing to those people over there and saying they’re the problem,  we’re even giving them financial rewards (or positive feedback) that they’re doing the job we need them to do.  You can read about it in here, a piece shared by a fellow colleague who also cares about great leadership, Kay Buckby.  My reaction to it was (a very eloquent) “Bonkers!”.

So when people aren’t performing in their jobs.

We point the finger of blame at them for all the ills of the world.

And we reward them for it, to make sure we draw an even thicker veil over the whole unsightly problem.

If doing the same things and expecting different results is a sign of madness then I’m not quite sure how to articulate this as anything other than Bonkers!!

Not surprisingly, underlying all of this, a seam of frustration bubbles away within the team, within the manager – and most importantly – within the customers on the receiving end of the poor service.  The customers just won’t stick around.  They’ll vote with their feet.  The manager and team might eventually take evasive action from this person (if the person doesn’t leave first) but, to begin with, their stress responses will be triggered.

This stress response narrows their perspective on the situation and drops their cognitive abilities, reducing the possible solutions they can see for solving it.  It reduces their feelings of emotional generosity towards ‘that person’.  It causes them to look for evidence to back up their belief that they’re useless.  And, given that our thoughts and feelings show up in how we behave, their stress and frustration will leak out through their body language, their words and their actions.

One paradoxical result of this is that, despite their poor performance, the manager doesn’t feel they can do without this person – better the devil you know, what if we get someone else and they’re worse, how would we cope with a vacancy if we can’t find a replacement?

All of these are fear-driven responses (and stress is triggered again).

So, what’s the alternative?…….

…….A world of high emotional intelligence*.

I believe in a world where people are treated and behave like adults.  Adults who can make informed choices and who can take responsibility for their own situation.

I also believe we all want to do a great job, but sometimes things get in the way of that which means our performance can dip.  And if those things have been in the way for a long time it can be hard for us to remember what it was like to come to work and feel good about it.  This means that, as adults, we still need support, guidance and feedback from others to keep us on-track.  And we still appreciate a reward (verbal acknowledgement is often enough) for when things are going well.

In this world when a leader has someone in their team who’s under-performing, the first thing they do is ask what’s going on, then they listen and they ask questions. Partly to inform themselves of the situation, and also to let the person vent about what’s going on. They aren’t afraid of this venting. They know that emotions are the things that motivate us to make changes in life, and when they’re swirling inside us they can’t take us in any productive direction. The simple act of verbalising what’s going on straightens these emotions out and gives us a clearer sense of which way to go.

From this listening and asking, the result is often that the individual will spot a way forward for themselves. If not, the leader will have learnt enough about the situation to offer advice, guidance or training that will actually be helpful and relevant. Or they may be able to offer relevant feedback based on what they’re seeing of this person and in the wider team context.

All of these things help the person become unstuck and their performance improves.

And even if it doesn’t improve, the leader can look themselves in the mirror with the belief that they did what they could to help, and that perhaps this just isn’t the right job, or right business for them. Which means a parting of company on good terms, with dignity and respect – and without the need to pay out bonuses to hide a problem!  All of which maintains great relationships with the rest of the team, and their trust in you – which means they’ll also feel safe to share what’s going on for them.  Creating a virtuous circle!

And I know what you’re thinking.

When could I ever get the time to have these conversations?

Well, they don’t actually take that long. If we’re given the space to think and speak with someone who really cares and who really listens, our brain can be pretty effective at getting to the crux of what’s going on.

And remember, in having these conversations – maybe weekly – we get into good habits of processing what’s going on for us, and they mean the team’s performance will never get to the place of you compensating for the stuff they let drop, which automatically gives you back a load of time.

And if you really believe that your team are the key to your collective success then you’ll prioritise these conversations over anything else.

*You can find out more about the difference emotional intelligence makes to a business here.

Photo credit – http://redsarmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kg-head-in-hand.jpg

This is me…………… www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development

WFS Tree

Thinking Leaks

A few weeks back I was feeling frustrated. I’m an independent person with a high achievement drive and these characteristics, which can be strengths, were holding me back – “I wish I could go to that event – but I can’t because I’ve been away quite alot recently and the kids need me here”….”I wish I could get half an hour to catch up on SoMe in the morning – but I can’t because I need to do breakfast and get the kids ready”…..”I wish I could exercise more – but I can’t because by the time I’ve got the kids to bed, had some tea, done some work or housework, there’s no time….” and so on.

And then I caught myself.  I realised how unhelpful my thinking had become. I noticed it leaking into my conversations. Just a little edge of bitterness, resentment and envy.  Our thinking – both the helpful and the unhelpful – leaks out of us through what we say and what we do.  We just can’t help it.

Leaks

When I had my realisation I made a decision – that’s not who I want to be.

Who I want to be, and who I know I can be, is a positive person who can always see there’s a choice. Who is grateful for what I have rather than mithering over what I don’t. And who knows that all these things start with our thinking – which we can choose – they’re just thoughts.

So I examined my thinking and came up with some more helpful stuff to think instead, which I’ve been practicing for the last couple of weeks.

I hope that by sharing these I can enable others who might have the same or a similar challenge to find some more helpful thoughts for themselves too…. Here are my new thoughts –

My kids mean I laugh. Everyday.

I get to sing Frozen songs in the car as loud as I like (yes, whether they’re with me or not).

I chose to be a mum and I chose to have my business – I love them both and if I want to keep them both I need to enjoy them for what they are and how they are right now.

I am very lucky to have two amazing, healthy, gorgeous children.

If time spent [insert anything I feel I “can’t” do] is important enough I will make it happen.

If it wasn’t for the kids I could be a workaholic, creating no space for fun, reflection or creativity – which I know invite our best thinking.

Having so much to squeeze into life makes me great at prioritising, and focusing on the most important things.

Having kids mean I get to spend more time outside, in grassy tree-filled places than I probably would otherwise.

I might not get to do ‘traditional’ exercise as much as I’d like but I do get to lift heavy weights (tired kids), exercise my core (acting like a horse for them to take a ride), work my thighs and glutes (going up and down stairs a lot).

Their school holidays mean I take more holidays than I normally would, so I get good breaks that usually involve lots of fresh air and activity.

They’re honest and tell it like it is which helps to keep me in check – ‘but mummy you’re always busy doing something’.

They challenge me to manage my emotions, to choose how I respond and get the best out of them – the most extreme emotional intelligence development you could hope for.

They remind me of the simple needs we all have – hugs, time to have fun together, good sleep, a reason why to help us take action, exercise, (mostly) healthy food, more hugs, the chance to be given responsibility, having someone to listen to us and how we’re feeling, and a few more hugs for good measure!

What do you struggle with?  What could you think instead that would be more helpful?

[Photo credit – http://shootingparrots.co.uk/2011/12/05/theres-a-hole-in-my-bucket]

This is me…….Wild Fig Solutions Ltd

WFS Tree

#FeedbackCarnival – The Curation!

Wow! What an amazing month April’s been for fabulous feelings and philosophies on feedback! 33 posts all together! Impressive stuff and a great wealth of insight has been created on a topic which is clearly an area of work that continues to need some attention so that we can improve.

Thank you to everyone who’s contributed. It’s only because of you that this curation is possible and able to benefit others with this same challenge.

It all started with a post I began to write  after a Pilates class…..

“Every week in my Pilates class there’s at least one of us that needs help to perfect a move.

> Sit right back, put all the weight into your heels so you can lift your toes. > Keep your hips facing forward and twist at the waist. > Lift your chest keeping your back in neutral.

And we adjust what we’re doing and then go “Oh! That’s how it’s meant to feel”.

And sometimes words aren’t enough and our instructor needs to come and show us one-to-one. Perhaps just visibly. Perhaps physically adjusting our bodies for us so we can really feel the difference.

We think we’re copying her when she stands at the front of the class. And yet sometimes we’re just not. Sometimes we’re really completely oblivious to how our own bodies are actually moving.

Timothy Gallwey talks about this in The Inner Game of Tennis. How he has to get players to stand somewhere that they can see their reflection so they can watch their swing. And then they see “Oh! I really am finishing too high”.

Because we really can be oblivious to what we’re actually doing compared to what we’re supposed to be doing – we all have Blind Spots.”

From those origins, the Feedback Carnival was born with this invitation for people to add their thoughts and observations; “Feedback would happen all the time if……”

carnival

So this post is my curation of all that insight to bring you some of the thinking that’s out there into one place.

A key point made by David Goddin in his post is that feedback benefits from being observations, not judgements, and so with this post my intention is to share the insights from all the contributions without judgement of whether they are right or wrong, good or bad. They are what they are and you will be able to read; debate with whoever will be helpful for you in that; and choose what is right for you – because some parts will be more helpful in some contexts than others. So while you read, I invite you to have your context and your purpose with feedback in your mind, and maybe start with a question.

What might help you?

What might help those around you?

What might help your organisation?

So, why should we care about feedback? What’s the purpose?

I think without exception, all the writers have believed that feedback is a helpful thing. Helpful for our personal development, and therefore helpful for those around us – and beyond – because it raises our awareness and so enables us to develop and improve what we do and how we do it, which improves ours and others performance, and therefore improves overall organisational results.

Peter Cook wrote a great example of how embracing feedback and doing something about it, coupled with persistence, got him the result he wanted for his career.

Heather Kinzie wrote about our fundamental human need of being wanted – or of receiving attention. This need for attention, which is very obvious in children, remains with us as we grow older, and feedback is one way in which we can meet this need in others. If someone’s given us feedback, they’ve seen us, they’ve noticed us, and they’ve cared enough to say something about it, and that has us feel OK – something Gemma Reucroft experienced when offering feedback to a colleague.

Kandy Woodfield acknowledges the purpose of feedback as providing a sense of belonging, a purpose, aspirational goals and trust in each other.

So the purpose of feedback isn’t just about that external results and performance stuff out there, it’s about the stuff that goes on inside each and every one of us every day. Perhaps if we took care of the internal stuff, the external would be more likely to take care of itself?

So what does that ‘helpful’ feedback place look like?

Many people acknowledge that feedback already happens all around us all the time, if we stop to notice it. However most of the content has focused on improving the ‘traditional’ work-based feedback situation. The place of ‘this is how you’re doing in your job’ or ‘this was the impact on me when you did that’.

As 70:20:10 learning strategies continue to be the focus for improved sustainability of learning, effective feedback will have to be central to that, given that it sits in the 70% of on-the-job learning, and in the 20% of coaching and mentoring, as well as in the 10% of classroom learning which  Rachel Burnham picked up on with some practical examples of making feedback part of a learning environment.

Jo Stephenson has a dream for how her future place of feedback will look “I’m dreaming of time when it’s common practice that feedback talk happens as standard, within the 1:1s I’m part of. It’s expected, it’s what we do here. We value it.”

Meg Peppin, Julie Drybrough and Gemma Reucroft all wrote about a place where feedback isn’t a separate ‘thing’ you ‘do’ it’s just part of the conversation between two or more people.

David Goddin read more