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Entries from October 2014

Being the Best that You Can be!

30th October 2014
Performance Feedback
If you want to be the best you can be
you need to regularly set yourself some challenging goals or targets and get
feedback. This is what most world class athletes do and strangely enough it’s what most organisations performance reviews are based on. Yet, for most people, the mere mention of this event makes their heart sink.
Why is this? We all want feedback. I
haven’t come across anyone who doesn’t want feedback so how have we got
ourselves into the situation where so many people do not look forward to this
Here are some of the common mistakes I’ve seen:

  • You only have this conversation once a year at performance
    review time so you either bring up all the things you want to from the past year
    (good and bad), or can’t remember key incidents which would be of value to the
  • You structure the conversation based on the review forms
    you have to complete. The conversation is therefore a form filling exercise
    rather than a meaningful discussion about the individuals overall performance.
  • The feedback comments are so generic they don’t have any
    meaning for the individual, for example ‘you did a great job’, ‘you handled
    that really well’, ‘that didn’t go too well’, or ‘you acted
    unprofessionally.’ When you are on the receiving end of this type of feedback you have no idea what you actually did well or not so well…

This is a shame, because giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important activities you can engage in with your

When done well it is the springboard to performance
How often do you actually give meaningful feedback to your
team members?
How often do you get feedback?
If you don’t get it do you ask for it?
As a reminder and to hopefully encourage you to be even better at asking for and giving feedback I’ve listed some ‘best practice’ tips below. 

Whilst I’m sure you have
heard all of this before if you are not giving regular feedback, or
asking for feedback yourself then I would encourage you to read on and decide
what you are going to start to do differently to enhance your own and your
teams performance.

How do I give constructive and
effective feedback?
Performance Feedback
The most important
element in providing effective feedback is establishing an atmosphere of mutual
trust and regard. When a feeling of trust has been created, it is easier both
to give and to accept feedback.

  • Make sure that the employee
    understands that you are working toward a mutual goal – their success.
  • Acknowledge the
    employee’s accomplishments and successes along with the areas in which he or
    she needs to improve.
  • Be specific. It is much more useful to describe the
    specific element of work that concerns you or that you are particularly
    impressed by. Remember to stick to what you know
    first hand: You’ll quickly find yourself on shaky ground if you start giving
    feedback based on other people’s views.
  • Keep the feedback
    simple. Decide on the area you want to cover. You don’t want to create a
    shopping list of faults that could overwhelm and discourage the employee.
  • Offer to work with
    your employee to develop solutions to any problems that he or she is

How do I ask for feedback?
When I ask people whether
they ask for feedback I get one of two responses:

  1. I haven’t asked
  2. I haven’t been specific
    on what I want feedback on.
  • Be clear about what you
    want feedback on. If you are practicing your presentation skills what is it
    that you are working on? Is it your voice tone, your volume, how you stand or
    sit, the content of the presentation the flow of the presentation, your eye
    contact, the pace, how you handle questions…This is what I mean by be clear.
  • Ask someone who you know
    will give you the feedback and will focus on the specifics.
  • Be prepared to ask
    further questions for clarity when you are getting the feedback so you can walk
    away and know exactly what it was you did well, or what specifically you need
    to do differently.

So these 3 simple things
are to help you be more proactive in obtaining relevant feedback for you.
What do I do while I am receiving
There is an art to
receiving feedback as well as giving it and as feedback is rare  you
really need to know how to make the most of it:

  • Listen while your
    manager, colleague or stakeholder is giving feedback, and I mean really listen – don’t be waiting to speak. Wait until he or she
    is finished before you respond.
  • Make sure you
    understand the feedback. It’s useful to paraphrase the feedback to ensure that
    you captured the intended meaning. Ask for clarification or for more specifics
    if it’s not making sense to you.
  • Ask for strategies
    to resolve the issues and work together to develop solutions if you are not
    sure how to proceed.
  • Finally, whether
    you agree with the feedback or not, thank the person for his or her time and
    for being helpful to you. 

What if I get feedback that I don’t
agree with?
We don’t have to
take on board all the feedback we get. We always have a choice. So if you don’t
agree with what you are hearing:

  • Step back. It’s
    useful to consider the feedback calmly and to think about it in the overall
    context of moving forward in your career.
  • Ask a trusted peer
    for his or her point of view or talk with a mentor.
  • If you decide not
    to use the feedback, let your manager know and tell her or him your reasons. They
    may want to give you additional feedback. Listen to it and enter into a
    dialogue about it. If you decide not to use the feedback at this time, keep the
    feedback in mind, since it may make more sense to you down the road.

If you really
believe in people being the best that they can be, or  better still, see that you have more potential, make
feedback a habit
– both giving and asking for it!
“Be proactive.
Proactive people work on the things they can do something about.”
Stephen Covey

Not Difficult – Just impossible!

23rd October 2014
Difficult Conversations, Courageous ConversatinsOne of the most challenging situations as a leader is handling so-called
‘difficult people’. It can take up a disproportionate amount of your time,
effort and energy and, if not handled effectively, create a ‘toxic atmosphere’
in the workplace.
Whether you are dealing with defensive behaviour, emotional reactions
or differences in style, it is important to recognise the extent to which your
own behaviour can either defuse or escalate others’ ‘difficult behaviour’.
The more you are able to stand back and understand the impact it is
having on you and then choose a response, rather than a reaction, the more
likely you are to be able to lead effectively.
What makes someone
Few people get out of bed in the morning intending to make life
difficult at work.
A variety of factors may spark off defensive behaviour and cause
someone to display their less attractive side. If you are able to identify the
causes you stand a better chance of building an effective relationship. Here are
some of the possible causes for you to consider:
Current Situation: The context in which someone is working
will have an impact on their behaviour. There may be changes in the team,
changes in workload changes to work practices, a new leader or they may have
been promoted.
Personal History: People bring history to their working
relationships – attitudes that reflect how they were treated in the past, the
amount of confidence they have in their own skills and knowledge, and their
beliefs about themselves and other people.
Differences in style: Sometimes, what
is perceived as difficult behaviour is simply a difference in style or approach
to your own.
External factors: An employee may have a personal or family
problem that is effecting their motivation and behaviour. It should also be
recognised that extreme behaviour may be the result of stress, mental health
issues, drink or drug problems, and leaders should be alert particularly for
behaviour that is out of character.
Know YOUR default style
We each have our own unique way of reacting when faced with a conflict
or difficult situation. We might like to think that we’re slightly more
sophisticated than this, however, when under the stress and pressure of a
conflict situation, we all typically revert to a default style or pattern of
behaviour. Understanding what yours is and then choosing how to respond can
help you manage the situation more effectively.
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed a model that may help you
with this. It has been adapted over time, but generally includes the following approaches:
Do you avoid any conflict or confrontation and withdraw, both
physically and psychologically? If this is your style you tend to bury your
head in the sand, pretending that a conflict doesn’t exist and avoiding
addressing any issues with another party. This is a lose/lose approach.
Do you acquiesce with others? If this is your style you may behave
deferentially to people more senior and place the needs and interests of others
above yours. ‘Anything for an easy life’ is what you might say, and you may
also feel frustrated and resentful at the same time. This is a lose/win
Do you use your power, authority and strength? In fact, you may do
whatever it takes to win, saying things like, ‘It’s a matter of principle – I’m
not backing down; that’s a sign of weakness.’  This is a win/lose approach.
Are you focused on getting everyone’s needs met? You see conflict as a
problem needing a solution and want to work with the other party to resolve it.
You look beyond people’s position and explore their underlying concerns,
ensuring you don’t get your needs met at the expense of others. This is a
win/win approach.
Do you sit on the fence when it’s time to find a solution to conflict?
You’re neither competitive nor accommodating, so you might be willing to
compromise on your needs, if the other party compromises on theirs. You are
neither collaborative nor avoiding, because while you don’t necessarily deal
with the issues in any great depth, you don’t avoid them completely. Your focus
is on splitting the difference or looking for the quick middle ground that will
do. This is neither win/win nor lose/lose and can  be a place of stalemate or no deal.
Difficult Conversations, courageous conversationsMoving Forward
Nothing is ever too difficult. It’s all a question of having the
skills and flexibility to adapt. In handling a ‘difficult’ person you may move
through several of the modes mentioned above depending on where the each of you
start. Here are some questions to help you move forward:
  • What are your default responses in a conflict situation?
  • Do you recognise any of these responses in others?
  • What are your next steps in handling ‘difficult’ people more


If you are facing a difficult situation that you would like to talk
through email me at
“Be proactive. Proactive people work on the things they can do
something about.” 
Stephen Covey


The 4 C’s of Courageous Conversations

15th October 2014
courageous conversationsI first came across the term courageous conversation some
years ago when I first heard David Whyte speak. At the time I was struck by
what this meant and it forced me to think about where I had had a courageous
conversation, if at all!
I realised I had and more importantly I recognised that
there was one I was avoiding, and that was a conversation with myself.
My invitation to you, today, is to consider the same
question. With whom do you need to have a courageous conversation?
Where are things not proceeding the way you want them to go?
Where do you need to step in and stop the
conversation that you are having now – even though you don’t know where to go
In considering this it could be with someone at work, someone
at home, someone in your community, if you are running a business it may be a
conversation with your business, or it could be a conversation with yourself.
It’s not your every day conversation
  • It’s a conversation that you have to be really present for.
  • It’s a conversation where you have to speak candidly,
    without any defensiveness.
  • It’s a conversation where you face reality.

The fact that it’s called courageous implies that there is
an element of danger either for you, or the person or people you will be
talking to.
And … as we are all unique human beings, danger can mean
many things to many people ranging from; giving someone some feedback that you
know they are not going to like hearing; to loosing your job; and ultimately
through to life or death scenarios (although this is rare in many organisations
To help you prepare for this conversation here are the 4 C’s
to consider:
Courage: You have
to be brave and stand up and make it happen.  Face reality, challenge assumptions, including your own, and
have the courage to ask the question no one else wants to.
Confidence: Be
self-assured and know that the time is right.  In the words of Martin Luther King “the time is always right
to do what is right.”
Be confident to sit with silence that may arise and to
‘not know’ where to go or what the solution is.
Control: You have
to be in control of your emotions, which means you have to be present in the
here and now, centred and calm. Be curious not judgemental, and speak candidly
without creating defensiveness, so that what you say is delivered in a way that
feels positive.
Choice: This runs
through all of the 3 C’s above. You are at choice in all that you do:
  • Choose to be courageous
  • Choose to be confident
  • Choose to be in control of your emotions
  • Choose to have the conversation

Courageous conversations foster creativity; strengthens
relationships and more importantly allows you to be the leader in your life.
Good luck! I’d love to hear how you get on.
“It’s not
the day you have to manage… but the moment. It’s not the dragon you have to
slay, but the fear. And it’s not the path you have to know, but the
Mike Dooley

Four Simple Questions to Help you Build Resilience

10th October 2014
resilienceHow do you deal with setbacks?
Do you:
  1. Roll over and think ‘that’s it  – it’s too hard, might as well give up
  2. Decide to roll your sleeves up, get stuck in and push
  3. Throw a tantrum and create a drama out of it.
My guess is you may have done all of these at various stages
of your life in differing circumstances depending on your level of emotional
engagement and maturity. And, hopefully, you’ve learned to handle setbacks a
little differently now.
I came across a great quote the other day which I think sums this up:
“ Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger
and more resilient.” Steve Maraboli
Of course there is a choice with this – you have to choose
to grow stronger and be more resilient so that you thrive rather than survive
from one crisis or setback to another.
It’s your capacity to respond constructively to adversity
that builds your resilience. It’s not about coping or surviving but about
harnessing the opportunities that lie within the situation and your own
Are you reacting to what life throws at you or are you
responding to what life throws at you? The latter is the one that will allow
you to grow so I thought I’d also share Paul Stoltz CORE questions
which are designed to help you build resilience:
Control – What facets of the situation can I/we/you
potentially influence?
Ownership – How can I/we/you step up to make the most
immediate, positive difference?
Reach – What can I/we/you do to minimise the potential
downside? Maximise the potential upside?
Endurance – What can I/we/you do to get past this as quickly
as possible? 
The next time you are faced with a setback take a step back
and take time to respond rather than react and consider what is it trying to
tell me? Which of the above questions can I apply to move forward?
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the
chance to work through difficult problems.”
Gever Tulley

Skills to Rely on When your Best Communication Efforts Fail

2nd October 2014
Communicating what you want to say in the most appropriate
way is an art form.  I’ve also
learned, through lots of good and not so good experiences, that it’s a
continual journey of discovery.
No two situations are identical, no two people are the same
and it’s very easy for us to get stuck in a mode of doing what we have always
done because it’s easy.
Is it any wonder that things go wrong? People misinterpret
what we say and this can lead to the wrong actions being taken and the person
or people on the receiving end being offended, confused or filling in the gaps
in some way.
So what can you do to put things back on track?
Take 100% Responsibility

Communication is the challenge of leadership

The very first thing you can do is take 100% responsibility
for your communication. It may well be that the person misinterpreted what you
were saying and the question still remains – how could you have made your
message clearer?
In my last blog I mentioned intention vs. impact. Did the
impact (result) of your communication match what you intended? If not, then it
really is your responsibility to ‘put things right’. Only you know what you are
trying to say and the result you were hoping to achieve
Start by asking your self these questions:
  1. What aspect of what I was communicating was misunderstood?
  2. Was it the content I miss-communicated or was it the way I
    communicated it? Consider here both the method you used and the tone with which
    it was delivered.
  3. Did I consider the person on the receiving end? Their level
    of knowledge, experience, style and way of working.

Having asked these questions one of two things are likely to
  • You re-communicate admitting you mistakes or new insights,
  • You apologise

Whichever is required ensure you give some considered
thought in what you say. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

Effective apology
An effective apology needs to be sincere and specific, so be
clear about what you are apologising for as generic apologies can come across
as insincere. This is not about you ‘taking the blame’ it is simply
acknowledging the impact of what you have or haven’t communicated. It’s not
about excuses either!!
Take a moment and revisit the situation so that you can
clarify exactly what you meant to say. 
When our emotions get in the way, they can create obstacles to
understanding and get us off the message we are really trying to convey.
Revisit the situation with
your colleague or colleagues to clarify your message.
If you know the way
you communicated is the cause of the breakdown offer a solution while
acknowledging your development point. A development point is a personal challenge that you may be working to
manage or overcome, which admittedly may have only been brought to your
attention through this incident. 
For instance, if you have a tendency to get impatient when you are
nearing a deadline, you may be working on finding ways to keep a proper
perspective so that you don’t create an uncomfortable environment for yourself
and others.  Your impatience is
your development point, and you must acknowledge it when you are looking to
‘build bridges’.
“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only
what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip
about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and
Miguel Angel

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