Is Giving Feedback a Problem?

letters on wooden cubes
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Hey Hey it’s Fridaaaaaay!

I hope your week has gone well.

This was going to be a short one but it got away from me. I hope you find it useful. Feedback is such a powerful tool … when used for good and not for evil!

Join the conversation in the comments and pass on to someone you feel may get some benefit from it. The more the merrier! 🥳

Don’t stress!

Bill


The Steel Shavings Incident!

Growing up in Albany, Western Australia, we often existed shoeless. In the house, backyard, beach. Shoes were not the norm. Church? Yes, we wore shoes in church! And we’d visit my dad at the engineering business he owned for over 40 years. I would have been 6 or 7 at the time of the “incident”. I’d be so keen to see all the big machines (lathes, drill presses, metal saws and other stuff). I didn’t see the steel shavings on the floor around the lathes. These were curled up pieces of metal that flew off the lathes. Sharp as razor wire to the bare foot of a 6 year old, or any-year-old for that matter.

Imagine stepping on something that cuts into you and you jump from the pain of the cut and then have to land, and, in that instant (less than a second), have to decide where to land so you don’t get cut again!

I can remember still, the cotton wool … and the blood! So. Much. Blood. 🩸

So, without any fear or favour, my dad would yell, “Next time put some bloody shoes on!” Not one for showing sympathy, the old man! Feedback was great though! 👍

Feedback

Feedback is one of those topics that gets a bad rap! Mainly because when we think of feedback, we think “negative”, or the more politically correct “constructive” feedback.

Perhaps it’s also because it is uncomfortable to give negative feedback. What if they disagree? What if they don’t accept it? What if they challenge me? All awkward situations for sure.

But, like a good joke, it’s all in the delivery!

Little and Often

The key to giving better feedback is to make it like it’s almost nothing. (Almost!)

If you leave feedback for a “later time”, it loses all effect. If we delay feedback, it’s certainly easier to be challenged with “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” For which we need to have a really good answer! Which we won’t, but we’ll try. At this point I’d suggest putting the shovel down and stop digging the hole you’re in!

But if it’s little (meaning small) and often, this doesn’t happen.

Think of a situation where you need to give feedback, think of something small and not inflammatory for now. Maybe late to a meeting, late to work, forgot something.

Keep it small and follow these guidelines*:

  1. Ask permission: hey can I give you some feedback? [Sure]
  2. Describe the factswhen you’re late to the meeting
  3. Describe a consequence: we need to stop and catch you up. That’s not great!
  4. Ask for a change: can you fix that next time? [Okay]
  5. Say thanks: Thanks! 😉

That’s it! Takes less than 10 seconds and, because it’s factual, it’s hard to challenge. It also leaves the person with the autonomy of how they’re going to fix it. Have you noticed adults don’t like being told what to do? Who knew?

Why so negative?

Some of you reading this will think, people do good things too. Do we not give them feedback?

Absolutely! (See the “Homework” below.)

The same steps apply.

  1. Ask permission: hey can I give you some feedback? [Sure]
  2. Describe the factswhen you’re prepared for the meeting like you were
  3. Describe a consequence: it makes the process so much better and we achieve a lot more in the meeting! That’s awesome!
  4. Ask for a continuance: You’re leading by example. Keep it up! [Okay]
  5. Say thanks: Thanks! 🙌

Note: be specific with positive feedback as well. “Good job!” doesn’t cut it! Be observant, what did they do that was good? ← That’s what you tell them!

Here’s the problem

When we don’t provide feedback, we let it fester. Time goes by and after a time, it’s too late to give the feedback about the thing. Even if it’s good feedback. 

When that happens, as a leader or manager, I make the decision that the problem is now me, not them! I need to be better! (You may decide differently.)

We need to acknowledge that people tend to doubt themselves. Without feedback, they may decide what they did was not good enough or incorrect and change their behaviour … because you didn’t give them the feedback! 🤯

The … “Homework”

Even with such a simple process, giving feedback can be difficult. 

Start off by looking for what people do right and provide that feedback. No negative/constructive feedback, unless of course it’s mission critical. That’s your call.

Look for something good each day. Because it’s positive you can leave out the “ask permission” step but I’d advise you to use it. When you get to providing negative/constructive feedback, it’ll roll off the tongue.

Being positive consistently generates better behaviour in other areas. People like being liked and accepted. When positive feedback comes, it generates a perspective of acceptance, so other behaviours adjust to this. It’s like someone not wanting to let their boss down. It’s not 100% failsafe, people still screw up, but you may be surprised how well this works.

In the Human Synergistics Circumplex** tool, research suggests that by building one component, say Humanistic-Encouraging (1 on the circumplex), the opposite behaviour, Oppositional (7), a negative behaviour, will lessen. The opposite is also true! 😬

Summary

Determine to give feedback little and often. Look for ways to provide positive feedback. Be specific. What is it you liked? Become comfortable with giving feedback. So many times I heard people say, “The only time I get feedback is when I’ve done something wrong!” We can change that! Today!

And hey, if you do mess it up occasionally, remember … #dontstress! Go again!


*The team I sourced this from are Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne from Manager Tools. Easily the best business podcast and website. Simple but effective, and great value for money if you’re wanting to dig into all the tools they offer, which are many. 

**I am not a qualified consultant of Human Synergistics. I was involved with their work in a company that engaged them for their expertise. Hence my knowledge of the tool.


BONUS MATERIAL

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat! Personal feedback!

Yes, you can apply this to yourself! How good is that? 🙌

Rather than beat yourself up when you make a mistake, and we all know we are our own worst critic, here’s a practice you can use to break that habit.

Next time …

Using the feedback steps above, add these steps to your self talk.

  1. Hey, I was late to a meeting.
  2. When I’m late to meetings, it puts the team off, slows us all down and I am playing catch up! And stressed!
  3. Next time … I’ll [and now add what you’ll do next time to prevent being late to meetings!]

Take notice of areas you want to improve. Use this method to bring your automatic behaviours to your conscious attention and make changes to readjust your automatic behaviours.

Personal example: I’m working on my health and part of that is getting a better night’s sleep. Sometimes a glass of wine can disrupt that. So, when I’m thinking of having a wine, here’s my “Next time …”:

  1. Fact (for me, you do you): Hey, when I drink wine at night …
  2. Consequence … It disrupts my sleep …
  3. Next time … I think of having a wine at night, I’ll grab a glass of water instead.

Feedback welcome! 😉 ← see what I did there?


Do We Need a “Do Not Care” List?

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We all know of the ubiquitous “To Do” list. Most have heard of the “Not To Do” list. But how many of us have a “Do Not Care” (DNC) list?

A DNC list is a way to consciously decide the areas we consciously give energy to and areas we consciously don’t give a toss about!

Allow me to explain…

There are many thing vying for our attention and many of them are promoted to be important. But they’re not!

Scientists have measured the amount of data that enter the brain and found that an average person living today processes as much as 74 GB in information a day (that is as much as watching 16 movies), through TV, computers, cell phones, tablets, billboards, and many other gadgets. [Source]

That’s a lot to manage. 😳 Fortunately, a massive percentage of that goes straight to the subconscious. It bypasses our conscious mind, thank god! But we still feel overwhelmed.

Having a DNC list can save a lot of time and energy; energy we need to cope in the world we live in.

Here’s an example:

The wife and I were discussing Christmas planning. Where and when we had dinner, who was cooking what, who was bringing what and how it was all going to work out. She had her view, I had mine. But the conversation took longer than it needed to! It all ended happily, and we are looking forward to the day with the kids. (I’m sure we are the only people on the planet who get into these types of discussions! 😉)

As I reflected on the conversation, I realised the points I had been making were unimportant. I didn’t really care how Christmas was planned. All I cared about what who was there. I was just trying to be helpful by limiting and unnecessary effort in what is already a busy time of year. But I really didn’t care. I realised I didn’t even value my own opinion. As long as the family is happy and it all makes sense, sure! At the time, I felt I had to have an opinion, and, once given, that had to be given consideration. But, I didn’t really care how Christmas went as long as we were all able to be together at some point and have a family meal. (One part of the family is in Covid quarantine so this isn’t a normal Christmas!)

Now, to I say I don’t care, I’m not meaning to be unfeeling or cold towards others or circumstances. What I mean is, it’s okay to allow others to take the responsibility if that is what they want to do. We don’t have to be the “captain of the world!” Perhaps a situation is out of our control and we have no influence whatsoever over the outcome. Why care?

Another example might be television.

There is some rubbish on the telly, isn’t there? So I’ve decided not to care. I’m not going to scroll endlessly though my subscriptions to Netflix, Prime and YouTube to see if there is something on. I don’t care.

Back to the Do Not Care list.

***This is not intended to be cold and callous***

It is about choosing where I put my emotional, mental and physical energy. It is a form of self care. Why get anxious about things I have no influence over?

A suggestion …

  1. Open up a page in a notebook and think about areas we might normally allow to affect us.
  2. Write down as many items as you can think of in 2 – 3 minutes. (you can add more later)
  3. Now review the list
  4. Put a ‘+’ or a ‘-‘ next to each item.
  5. A ‘+’ means you want to continue paying attention to the topic.
  6. A ‘-‘ signifies a conscious decision not to pay attention to the topic.
  7. The list with ‘-‘ next to them become the DNC list. Each time this come up develop a plan to drop the topic as quick as you can. And move to something you want to focus on.

I’ve started developing an internal statement like this:

“I do not to think about or discuss ‘topic’.”

The Benefits of a DNC List

I remember my Mother-in-Law speaking about someone who had just died. She seemed really upset and I wondered who had passed away. My wife was consoling her but something seemed bit weird about the conversation. My wife quickly let me know: “It’s okay, we’re talking about Days of Our Lives!

I see and work with many people who get distressed about factors and events which they have little to no control over. By deciding what to care about and what not to care about can save a lot of stress anxiety. It then allows room for more joy and happiness to we focus on the things we want to. It also means there is more energy for the things we choose to focus on.

I think it’s time to create a Do Not Care list and be very conscious of where and how use our time.

Over to you …

Do you have a Do Not Care list? Have you had it for a while? Do you think it might benefit you? Maybe you have something like it but refer to it as something else.

Let me know in the comments!

If you found this and other material here useful, consider dropping $1 in the cup! And tell a few friends! 🙏

Where’s Your Focus?

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“It’s a well-known fact that what we give our attention to grows and what we don’t give our attention to tends to fade away.”

How to Make Your Dreams Come True – Mark Forster

What are your thoughts on this?

My dad used to say what what you think about will likely happen.
We tend to focus on the negative aspects of life. We do this for our protection. Negative things can harm us. So we’re constantly on the lookout. And we do need to protect ourselves from being harmed. But if we only focus on prevention from harm, we may miss the opportunities for growth, development and happiness.

Some examples I thought of:

  • we talk in detail about a bad day at work but summarise a good day
    • them: “How was your day?”
    • me: “Yeah, good!”
  • we look for what is wrong with a situation rather than looking for what is right
  • our organisational reports generally identify error rates, not success rates
  • we tend to coach faults/gaps in performance rather than build on strengths/achievements
  • we complain about our lot in life rather than the benefits
  • we never have enough money so we focus on our lack, not what we have
  • we look how far we have to go rather than look at how far we’ve come
  • we listen to the news which is commonly negative and depressing

If this is the case, we are missing an opportunity to focus on the positive. And if the initial quote is true, or at least beneficial, how might this play out in living the life we want?

This isn’t being Pollyanna – all butterflies and rainbows. It is, in fact, looking for information and examples in situation that are good and generally in any situation.

So, how would you like to think? By focussing on the lack, the gap, what you don’t have? How will that make you feel? How will your energy be?

Don’t try this at home: Spend the next 7 days highlighting all the gaps, problems and issues that you see … in detail!

Try this instead! I actually suggest you do the opposite. Spend the next 7 days looking at all the things you do have.

To do this I suggest the following:

  • grab a notebook
  • go in to each room of your house and where you work (might be the same place)
  • write down all the things you have
  • this isn’t Marie Kondo, they don’t have to bring you joy, just list them
  • you may be amazed at what you have
  • (you may also realise you have a bunch of stuff you no longer need!)
  • do the same with relationships – this could be tricky if you’re in a tough situation
  • same with finances – if you’re in debt, like we used to be, start making a plan to rectify that by focusing on what you want

Doing this exercise does not automatically resolve all our issues into a perfect life. It’s not magical. But it may help you realise how much you can be grateful for and what you can focus on.

As the quote says: “what we give our attention to grows”.

And may also help on taking some initial steps on improving some things.

I’m writing this on a perfect day in Perth, Western Australia. I’m outside on the patio. A galah is feeding from the bird feeder. The wife has just pruned the bushes this morning. There are kids a few houses over having a great time!

While I sit here, I am in to Day 6 of a 14 day quarantine. I have to stay home while the rest of the city is free as can be. I don’t like it and I don’t agree with the strategy. But, the peace and quiet, the ability to read and write is priceless. I’ll focus on that for a while!

When you’re down … and troubled …

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(hat tip to Carole King)

You know those times when you’re facing a challenge and you wonder if you’re up to it? All you see is the challenge and little of the opportunity?

I had that a few years ago.

In 2007, I’d joined an Engineering Group as Head of Human Resources and, on day one, I was tasked with creating an emerging leaders learning retreat … in 6 weeks time.

Holy shit!

It was possibly partly a test. It is a tough industry and they were looking to see what I could do. Could I do this? So much to do and organise and it was just me. No staff. No support. The PAs of the Execs didn’t know me so no favours were coming from that area.

I had to think about selecting the participants with some logic. My experience in Learning & Development required me to have learning outcomes, behavioural change and get the right people in the room.

I had to develop the program. Organise the guest speakers. Locate a venue with catering. Establish costings along with submissions for approval. Back and forth discussions with the COO and the CFO on “Why this?” and “Why that?” and “Can’t you do this cheaper?” (Good times!)

Plus, the other parts of the HR job in general. I was the first HR Manager at the time so everyone wanted a piece of me.

Remembering significant achievements can help you when you’re feeling flat, demotivated and useless. Hey, we all do at times. Have you ever been asked what your greatest achievements are and, in the moment, come up blank? Or maybe you just dismiss them? Yep, me too! 😉

Here’s what I’ve started doing …

  1. Open up your note app of choice, in my case it’s Apple Notes, but feel free to use a physical notebook.
  2. Write down all the achievements you have been responsible for. Could be something you led or played a significant role in (work or personal).
  3. Think about the achievement and how you “felt”. Make sure to write down how you felt at the time. If you can, bask in that glory for a minute, and re-live the emotion. Emotions are great motivators!
  4. Write that down next to the achievement. “I changed “x” to “y” and it was bloody hard work but in that moment I felt on top of the world!”
  5. Keep it visible. If you use something like Apple Notes, you can pin that to the top of your notes so it’s always there to see and re-read!
  6. If you use a physical notebook, place a tab on the page (pages 🙌) so you can refer to it when you need to.
  7. When you’re having a tough day or simply faced with a challenge, take 5 minutes to review these achievements, feel the emotion and gratitude you had at the time. Feel “on top of the world again!”
  8. You did it then, you can do it now!

Outcome: The Emerging Leaders Workshop

Over 3 days, we had 20+ emerging leaders on the program. They had come from all over Australia, Vietnam and Dubai.

We walked them through a business case study and allowed them to interact with each other, challenge each other and develop plans to become better.

We developed some business “truths” and created stronger relationships between the offices and the various engineering disciplines.

I think the CFO and COO were mildly stunned I had pulled it off and were very happy with the outcomes.

That experience is one I remember when faced with a challenge today. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Even writing this out has been beneficial.

Maybe there is a Step 9! 😉

The Inner Critic (Self Talk, Mindset)

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Do you have an inner critic that you’re tired of listening to?

If someone else spoke to you the way you speak to you, would you put up with it?

Here’s “Thing 1” … 

While you’re berating yourself …

  • others have full confidence in you
  • you provide encouragement, support and confidence to others (who also have an inner critic!)
  • when others fail or falter, what do you do? You’re quick to pick them up, I bet!

Maybe some self care is in order.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Pause/breathe – think about what you’re about to say to yourself
  2. Respond – don’t react
  3. Define what you do want – what does ‘good’ look like?
  4. Next time … what could you do next time this happens. Write it down if you can, it helps with imprinting and reinforcement
  5. Affirm what you’re wanting to achieve – write an effective affirmation (more on this coming soon) 

Here’s “Thing 2” …

  • Think about what you were berating yourself about 12 months ago.
  • Can’t do it, can you? 😉
  • This too will pass, grab any learning you can, let it go and move to the ‘good’

Want an example?

Meeting 1: “God, that was a train wreck! I am hopeless at running meetings. I can’t control the participants. I can’t stick to the agenda. What an idiot!”

Meeting 2: [Pause/breathe] “Well that wasn’t ideal. Next time … I’ll be clear about the agenda and keep participants on track. I’ll allocate some time to plan better. Will see Jane about how she does it, she runs her meetings well.”

Affirmation: “I plan my meetings well and maintain control to achieve the outcomes we need.”

Self Efficacy and Self Talk

So there’s this thing called self efficacy.

“Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” (Source)

There is another concept called self talk.

Self-talk is our internal dialogue. It’s influenced by our subconscious mind, and it reveals our thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas.” (Source)

Most people talk negatively to themselves most of the time. If it’s not negative, then it is neutral, with little to no power to progress.

In order to make progress

We need to improve our self efficacy, the ability to cause something to happen. Otherwise we will remain waiting for something to happen. Waiting on others, or waiting for a windfall.

To improve our self efficacy we can look to improve our self talk. Note from the source above, it can be influenced by some deeply held beliefs we may need to challenge or at least question.

What do you hold to that may not be true?

We could be talking ourselves out of the very things we want to happen in our lives, career, relationships etc.

As Henry Ford said,

If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!

What do you want to have happen?

How are you talking to yourself about it?