feedback

December 8, 2010

Leadership Lessons of ‘The West Wing’

Many of you will remember that I’m steadily working my way through the 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing’ boxed set. And so far, it’s not difficult to appreciate why so many Americans (and others) would readily take Jed Bartlett as their President.

There are many aspects of Bartlett that are agreeable and none more so than his tremendous leadership of others.

In an example I watched just the other night, one of his senior team takes an incredibly brave step to ask Bartlett personal details of his relationship with his father. Whilst this might seem a step too far in his relationship with ‘Mr President’, Toby Ziegler is performing an ideal, if rather intimate service to his boss.

Initially, Bartlett is rather incensed at Ziegler’s impertinence and then, in the next couple of episodes, we see the true leadership come through, where he responds to the raw edge that Ziegler has exposed. Bartlett sees past his own bruised ego and ‘gets’ the point of Ziegler’s intervention.

In his own way, Bartlett shows Ziegler how much he values the man’s courage to speak up in such a sensitive area – and, incidentally, an area that Bartlett really does need to investigate.

In too many cases, leaders are so engrossed in their own ego that they fail to appreciate that giving feedback to your boss is a tough thing to do.

Bosses very often intimidate, whether they mean to or not.

To have the courage to give feedback is a rare thing in an employee. Even when they do get brave enough, the handling of this feedback has to be very careful indeed, or valuable relationships will stutter and the most likely outcome is that no more feedback will ever be forthcoming.

(Hint – never start to argue or justify your side of it, just thank them and accept the feedback very graciously and ponder on it honestly).

Great leaders – like the fictional character Bartlett that Martin Sheen plays so effectively – value both the very feedback they are given by acting on it constructively, as well as respecting the generosity and courage shown by the employee who has the kindness to offer it.

We see feedback as a one-way street – often interpreted by employees as ‘criticism’ (and negatively as a consequence) – where we dole it out downwards when we lead others (often more for our benefit than theirs).

Where we graciously accept feedback given that is intended to help us ourselves evolve, we make best use of the gift for our own benefits and also show our people that it adds value and is to be appreciated, which, in turn, makes it much more likely for them to value too when they are on the receiving end.

When we accept and look into feedback that seems hard to take, we are being provided with a perception of us that sometimes – often indeed – is just where our blind spot is.

And that’s such a valuable steer for someone to take the time and trouble to share with us.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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November 24, 2010

Feedback Develops Everyone

Ironically, it often feels easier not to give feedback. For most people, whatever their role, the concern with what can be seen to be a confrontation is so much easier to delay, prevaricate with and – in many cases – simply put off altogether.

And that makes matters worse, almost every time.

Here are three ideas to help you get past giving feedback.

1. Be Fast and Frequent

When circumstances present themselves to give feedback, see it as a very positive opportunity. And then give that feedback, because it’s there for the value it can offer.

Giving feedback needs to be a regular activity, so that you begin to overcome the fear factor that so often comes with those much maligned words, ‘Would you like some feedback?’

The more you give feedback – not forgetting that it can so often simply be positive, without that negative sting in the tail – the more your people will learn to like it and be less defensive. Indeed, the goal we all seek as managers is where we add value by providing great feedback as a resource.

The better you give it soon after the event, such that it’s still relevant and fresh too, will be more effective than a few days later. Delaying says much about your level of self-esteem.

2. Make Feedback Two-Way

Being prepared to accept feedback means that you walk your own talk and your employees start to see the real reason behind feedback.

It’s actually there to help.

When we hear feedback, unless the language, trust and environment is perfect, it’s very easy to be defensive in response.

When as employees, we see our boss able to receive feedback willingly, appreciate it and be seen to develop themselves too, we start to want some of that.

As managers, accepting and showing the changes we make when we receive it, means feedback starts to be seen as not the monster with which it is so often tarnished.

3. What Do They Think?

Giving feedback has a prior step. Ask people if they would like to give themselves feedback first, listen and acknowledge and then share yours too.

And remember, ensuring that you acknowledge their positives first, shows just how much you value them as individuals and helps encourage people to try a different approach in the future in those areas where they might be better.

Employees pretty much do 95+% of their roles really well, so showing them perspectives of the opportunities to be even better needs to reflect how good they are first.

Want more? For 10 top tips on Effective Feedback, checkout here

Filed under Blog by Martin

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March 11, 2010

Key Benefits Of Giving Feedback – For Everyone

When we hear those dreaded words ‘Would you like some feedback?’, it can drive fear through our hearts. Yet there are definite benefits to gain, once it’s a tactic that everyone gets used to…

Through learning how well we do and where we can get better, in a culture that is supportive and encouraging, the truth is, everyone wins.

All will get valuable returns when they are open enough to accept feedback that is regular, constructive and helps people grow through their learning and appreciation of what they do and how they do it.

On the one hand, by learning that they deliver good performance for significant proportions of the time they work, most people will start to recognize and appreciate the contribution they bring to their role.

This builds their confidence that they are valued as a team member. With greater confidence, people do more; they try more out; they take new risks and they stretch themselves; they share their skills; they prepare themselves for new roles; for bigger career steps.

Confidence and self-awareness are the building blocks of rounded, capable employees, most of whom have much potential hidden just under the surface.

On the other hand, by becoming aware of those areas where even just slightly changing behaviors and actions will make an even more valuable contribution, people get better at their job.

The driver for this is an innate desire by human beings to get things right and see the appreciation of those who measure their performance.

Some people are much more driven in this than others. To an extent, everyone wants to do their job well and be seen as someone who contributes fully and consistently.

Learning in a non-threatening way is the best route to developmental success for everyone. For you; for me; for your boss; for a small child. We all want to get better without feeling too bad about the bits we might have gotten not quite right in the past.

There are others who benefit from feedback, in the bigger picture:-

•    Managers benefit as individuals deliver more closely to the requirements of the business and as they grow into new capabilities for the future
•    Businesses benefit from the gradually improving performance of everyone
•    Stakeholders benefit too. Like customers who get better service. Stockholders who have better returns on their investment. Suppliers who have more informed dealings with your people. Families who have members who are more valued at work and share some of that in their behaviors at home.

Feedback drives improved performance and when we, as managers, take the time to make it a positive activity, our people will grow beyond their and our, wildest dreams.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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February 4, 2010

Customer Complaints – Who Will Gather The Intelligence?

Complaints are a valuable asset to any organization, once you can ensure that your people are willing to play.

And to get them with you, they need to know that it’s not personal…

There is no greater value than that to be gleaned from your customers and clients who are prepared to take the time to give you feedback – which is a much more constructive way to describe a complaint.

These gold nuggets are literally worth their weight, when you are able to capture, dissect and respond positively to what you find out. Yet many organizations revel in low complaint rates!

The key to this is your people – all of them. It’s about turning them from being fearful of when a complaint comes in, to positively gleeful, because of the enormous opportunity it presents.

By ensuring that every one of them is geared up to sense when things aren’t going well, you will create an army of willing volunteers who are ready for action. Their job is to seek out and get to the bottom of any dissatisfaction they perceive.

This has to happen in the moment, all the time, or it will have passed and the opportunity will have disappeared into the anonymity of an ended phone call; a person now back out on the street; or the lost data storage of an online interaction that never sees the light of day.

It needs to be pro-actively sought, not passively responded to – or worse, swept under the carpet with the hope it will go away.

By encouraging your people to engage and interact with their clients, in any way at all, they will be able to get under the tough skin of a dissatisfied customer ‘not wanting to make a fuss’. They have to smell it out or it will slink away, unspoken, which is of no use at all to you.

They will probably capture more customer dissatisfaction, than you expect, especially to start with.

And when they do, it’s to be applauded. It’s to be celebrated.

Working as a team to find out critical information from those who have it, is a tactic any manager can adopt to ensure that customer service progresses, whilst also building the team togetherness ethic in a constructive, value-creating way.

By encouraging each and every one of them to engage their clients in any way they can, will make the conversation much more open and relaxed – and valuable.

Because, with this in place, many of your customers can easily be asked what they would love changed if they had the choice in the experience they have most recently had.

And that gives you – and your team – the vital intelligence to make your offer even better than it already is.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at http://www.SuperSuccessfulManager.com.

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Focus on Results by Martin

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