Feedback is Information

Years ago, I met two very wise individuals. They taught me a lesson that literally ?changed my life?. That lesson was that feedback is information; and that when people give you feedback they are really telling you about themselves. Let me explain.

As a workshop facilitator with audiences filled with supervisors, managers, and organizational leaders on a regular basis, the topic of feedback comes up regularly. When my audiences are not filled with leaders, they are filled with people who work for leaders?and the topic of feedback comes up regularly in these sessions too! Everyone seems to want it, and seems to see great benefits in giving and receiving it, and yet not many of us are engaging in it! I think a big part of the reason for this is a lack of understanding and appreciation that feedback is just information ? it is not ?truth?.

When someone gives you feedback, they are really telling you about their view of the world ? their expectations, their experience, their likes and dislikes. It is just information for you and does not mean that it IS reality ? it?s just their reality (in that moment, in that situation).

So, if John says ?you are great!?, that is nice for you to hear, but it does not mean that you ARE great?it just means that John thought that something you did or said or did not do or say, was ?great? as he defines it. Just like if Sam said ?you are rude?, it just means that Sam thought something you did or said or did not do or say, was ?rude? as she defines it. It does not mean that you ARE rude.

When you think of feedback as just information, you can be curious about the information you get and use all feedback as a learning opportunity ? an opportunity to learn how others around you view the world, including how they interpret your behaviour. So, you can respond with something like ?Thank you, John. Now help me understand what I did or said that was ?great? to you!? or ?Thank you, Sam. I am curious about what I did or said or didn?t do or say that was ?rude? to you.?

I am reminded of a lovely quotation by Gene Early, ?Feedback is not absolute truth, but it is truth to the person delivering it.?

Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Kids

I am reminded constantly of leadership principles from my interactions with my children.? Here are a few examples.

One day, my daughter arrived home from school and was telling me about her day.? Then she said, ?Mom, is it okay if I tell you something ? and you don?t give me and advice??? I was stopped in my tracks.? It reminded me of how important ?listening? is; just listening!? I teach this in my seminars, and the reminder from my daughter made the lesson that much more powerful.? As leaders (and parents) we jump in with advice, information or problem solving, when often what people want from us is just our ear, just to be there for them as a sounding board and a safe place to vent.

Another day, we were rushing around in the morning and my son was lagging behind.? ?We have to go ? come on? I said, as I rushed up the stairs to the bathroom for teeth brushing and hair combing.? I noticed there was no one behind me on the the stairs.? I turned, ?What?s up? Why aren?t you up here???I asked.? As my son looked up at me at the top of the stairs, he simply said ?Hey mom, your butt really jiggles when you run up the stairs!?? I was stunned, then I laughed.? That day, he reminded me to be careful not to assume the intentions of other.? He certainly had no bad intention in sharing this observation with me, he did not intend to upset me or insult me.? He was simply stating what he noticed.? At work we make all sorts of assumptions about the intentions of others; how often are we wrong or off track in those assumptions?? Often, I think!

The last story relates to my daughter.? As we were discussing her grades and other school related matters, she said ?Mom, how come when I bring a mark home you behave like it is your mark??? Again, I was silenced.? She reminded me here that I was owning what is rightfully hers; and when I thought my face was communicating one thing (concern for her doing well at school) it was really communicating something else (?I? have failed if you don?t do well in school).? Kids, and our staff members, want to learn their own lessons and own their own mistakes as well as their own successes.? When we start to own their experience, the experience is far less meaningful for them.

As is often the case, we can learn a lot from those we think we are teaching (and we need to follow those who we are leading)?So, remember to just listen, avoid assuming intentions, and let others own their own successes and failures.

What’s Old is New Again

??????Leg warmers.? I remember them from the first time they were in fashion in the early 80?s, and just last week, a young woman wore them to my workshop.? It reminded me of the importance of remembering that what is old, is new again.? With these times of continuous change, you might find yourself continually thinking about doing things in a new way, in a different way.? Don?t forget about the things you used to do, and why they worked when they worked!

For example, I was hired by a client to deliver their training program, already designed by them.? Even the ?introductions? exercise was designed.? When I read the description, I thought to myself ?that is?SO 80?s!?? The introductions exercise was the one where participants pair up, interview each other and then introduce each other.? We used to do that regularly in the 80?s and I was sure that people?might judge the course as a whole as being out of date, since this exercise was?a relic from an earlier?time.? I ended up being surprised and very pleased with the results.??The introductions were long and very complimentary ?I am honoured to introduce you to Jane, a talented accouting manager?.?, and of course, we learned a lot more about each person than we would have had they introduced themselves.? There was something else that happened that day.? The exercise was a huge reminder of the importance of?taking time to connect interpersonally, to really?listen to another person.? In today?s workplace this is a very rare occurrence.? We are stressed, time crunched, and communicate via email.??As a group, we talked about how this??old? way of communicating (actually getting up and?connecting face to face) is new again?and, in fact, contributes to our personal effectiveness (our results are better, and our relationships are more functional).? The organization also benefits ? even though communication takes longer, the results?last longer.??The communicators are healthier too, benefiting from?the?clarity that comes form an acutal dialogue with another person.

So, the next time you are?looking to increase your effectiveness and you are seeking some innovative, new way to do that?.remember what you used to do?remember that what is old can be new again?remember that sometimes your?new groove is your old groove revisited.

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Four Simple Steps to Personal Resilience

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Resilience is the ability to respond to high levels of change while maintaining personal resourcefulness. The word conjures up images of flexibility, of being able to ?bounce back? from adversity, of being able to handle stressful situations with ease. Are you wondering, how you can achieve that in a ?S.N.A.P.??

Imagine you are in a stressful situation (say, giving a presentation to a challenging client)?now follow this model:

S ? See Yourself

Begin by visualizing yourself as the resourceful, resilient person you would like to be in that situation. How do you look? What are you doing?

N ? Navigate a path

As you picture your resourceful, resilient self; what are you thinking about yourself, about others, about your role? How does having positive, affirming thoughts about yourself, others, and your role impact how you feel?

A ? Assume Control

You know there is only one thing in this world that you completely control ? yourself! So, assume control over your experience and decide to believe the beliefs that support success, decide to behave as though those beliefs are true, and notice the different results you experience! As you begin to behave differently, others respond to your behaviour and they start to behave differently, you begin to feel differently and then you continue to behave differently, and so on and so on and so on (ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy!).

P ? Press On

Remember that replacing old, potentially limiting beliefs with new, enabling beliefs can take time ? you need to persist in order to achieve the success you desire.

It really can be a S.N.A.P.!