When you’re down … and troubled …

man sitting and closing eyes on teal bench
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

(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! 😉

Is this the worst acronym in management?

R-ASBINT

Feedback is often delivered awkwardly so it deserves an awkward acronym!
Pronounced Rasbint, it lists the steps in delivering effective, ongoing feedback.

Let’s have a look

Feedback is one the most effective ways to help develop high performance. Unfortunately, people tend to shy away from giving feedback. At least, feedback that infers a gap in performance. We might call it constructive feedback but the receiver may take it as negative feedback. And so, it can be delivered poorly. It is either too infrequently. It can be too vague or it can be over emphasised … like a storm in a teacup. Sometimes the intent is to coerce or belittle and to make the deliverer of the feedback feel better.

Worse still, delays in providing feedback, can have long term effects on the individual, team and business performance. Delayed too long and it gets swept under the carpet altogether.

So why do we give feedback in the first place?

The aim of feedback is to always improve future performance.

That’s it. Nothing else. Learn from the mistake, take corrective action next time and move on. Anything else simply over complicates it. (Feel free to Agree/Disagree in the comments).

Therefore, if you’ll accept my aim of feedback, let’s look at the R-ASBINT Model.

R – Relationship: This is fundamental in all leadership/management roles. How solid is your relationship with your team or the individual? The stronger it is, the more effective the feedback will be. That is why it is separated from the acronym by the hyphen. You can do ASBINT on its own but you’ll get better results with a strong R. Be sure to build the relationship with your team and the feedback will be a lot easier.

A – Ask: This is where Manager Tools with Mark Horstman and Michael Auzanne, differ from many other models. Ask first. It may be rhetorical (see Note below) and you will give the feedback anyway, but asking first is professional and polite. This helps with the R part above. People in good relationships don’t bulldoze others. And, hey, isn’t it nice to be asked?

Keep it simple: “Hey, can I give you some feedback …?”

S – Situation: Outline the situation you’re referring to, so that the context is clear and specific. This could be really simple like: “When we have have our weekly sales meetings…”, or “When we need to submit our monthly reports…” or even,”When we’re in a meeting …”.

Behaviour: Describe the behaviour you saw. Not what you thought you saw. Be objective, factual, clear. (e.g. your report missed the deadline.) Also, remove any inflammatory emotion if the behaviour has triggered you. If you use phrases like: “When you do the thing, it p!sses me off!” you’re making it about you and not about the performance.

“When we have our weekly sales meetings and you’re late …”

“When you don’t submit your data on time …”

“When you yawn in the sales meeting …”

Impact: Describe why it’s an issue. Be clear, concise, no stories and no lecturing. (e.g. when the report is late, it delays the Board Report and other people’s schedules).

Again, I like how Mark Horstman says it at Manager Tools:

When you, did the thing, here’s what happens …”

Next Time: This (to me) is the best part. There’s no need for a long drawn out discussion. Simply say something like: “Could you fix that?” (Inferring next time), or, “Can you address that next month?” In addition, by leaving the solution with them, you remove the possibility of a “Yeah, but …”. If you tell them how to fix it, they may have a legitimate reason why your solution won’t work. (I know, how could your solution not ever work! 😉)

Thanks: Okay, maybe this is the best part. Say thanks and move on to your next task. Polite, professional, genuine.

Why it works

– It’s quick. It takes around 10 – 20 seconds in most cases.
– It’s conversational. There’s that R factor again.
– You don’t need a room to speak with them. I cringe at the times I took someone into a room (for privacy) when a quick message like this would’ve been better. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking? As well as those working with them? Were they next? (Of course, if you need a room for privacy because of the nature of the feedback, please use common sense.)
– It’s polite and professional.
– It allows autonomy on the part of the recipient. You’re not telling them how to do their job.
– What you’re asking is likely aligned to a KPI or agreed outcome.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

How do you successfully deliver feedback?

Note: Is Asking really rhetorical? Actually, no! If you ask the question, the recipient has the right to decline. And we need to respect that. This reinforces why a good relationship is so important. Keep in mind when people are offered feedback, generally, their automatic response is, ”this can’t be good!” So the chance are they’ll be defensive at first. If this is the case, start by offering good feedback for a while. We need to be doing that anyway. Look for things people do well as often as possible. Make sure you comment on that.

Be That Guy! (or Girl!)

Be That Guy!

Yes, be that guy! (or girl) in the sense of being the person you want to be.

I don’t mean in a new age, woo-woo manner (though there’s nothing wrong with that either!) What I mean is taking the time to define who and what you want to be in your best role or current role.

How do you see yourself at the moment?

A simple analogy: look in a mirror. Do you like what you see? This doesn’t mean you need to hate what you see or what you are. Just look and see what you’d like to change.

If you don’t think the shirt goes with the dress, change one of them. If you need a new hairstyle, go to a hairdresser.

Now work on the real you: do you get angry easily? How can you address that?

When you give presentations, are you cool and calm and enjoy the process or are you all nerves and flustered? How can you address that?

How do you talk to yourself? Are you encouraging yourself or berating yourself? How can you address that?

There is a saying to “find the job you love”. If you have done that, greatI If not, great: “love the job you find!”

More importantly, “love the ‘you’ you find!”

The ball is in your court.

And here’s a simple way to start moving further along the achievement line.

Grab a piece of paper.

Step One: List down up to 5 things you really want to address.

Step Two: Now pick one of those items you’d like to work on first (or select the one that will provide you the biggest improvement)

Step Three: Using the item you have selected list down up to 3-5 things about it that you do well, or want to do well. For example, if you selected “talk well to yourself”, what 5 things could you do (or are doing) that supports the notion of you being productive?

Step Four: Looking at those 5 items, select one that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Write that one down, or highlight it.

Here’s the fun part:

Step Five: Action: What will you do, each day, to develop that item?

Working example:

List 5 things you want to improve on: presentation skills, meditation, pause before reacting, highlight strengths of others, reflect gratitude

Choose Meditation/Mindfulness

List 3-5 things you do, or want to do, that will help you be more mindful: start mediating in the morning, read books on the benefits of mindfulness, write “be more mindful” in a conspicuous place, remove distractions (social media?)

Biggest bang: start meditating in the morning – will set me up for the day as well as reducing social media in the morning (double win!)

Action: segment my morning routine to allow 10 minutes for meditating, download an app, add to calendar.

While the process above may appear simple, the critical factor is moving towards being the person you want to be.

Following something relatively simple like this will help you see progress and, if you miss an opportunity, you will be able to quickly get back on track.

Yellow Button

It all started before 2010. We bought our first PVR (Personal Video Recorder). It was a Topfield.

It also cost $892! 

My wife was a little stunned, a little angry and wondered what on earth I had done. I had tried explain to her what a PVR was and the benefits of owning one would bring.

And so, we had our PVR …

Once we had it set up, my wife discovered the yellow button. On our remote control the yellow button was the 30-second skip ahead function. Guess how long most adverts are?

By recording a show on free-to-air TV we could skip through the ads! We used it so often that, literally, 12 months later, we’d accidentally watch an ad and say, “so that’s what that’s about!” It also rescued watching time considerably! Do you realise how many ads there are sometimes duding commercial television? We’d count them sometimes, nine was our record. Nine times 30 seconds (4.5 minutes), 3 or 4 times during a show!

The yellow button saved us time and some frustration.

Since then we’ve referred to anything we do that brings a benefit as our “yellow button”.

We can make our lives a little easier even though there might be an upfront cost – changing routines, eating differently, getting more exercise, meditating, reading positive books, getting off Facebook!

As you make one change, other changes can become easier, the cost to change reduces.

What has been your “yellow button”?

What change did you invest in that made a significant, positive impact?