Tag Archives: Ken Blanchard

Feedback…Criticism or Opportunity?

Every once in a while, I like to get back to the basics.  The basics for me are always about people and how we relate to each other.  This post addresses giving and receiving feedback. I know, it is an old topic but I’ll stop talking about it when more of us get better at it. In the meantime, here it is…again.

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“Feedback is the breakfast of Champions” or so says Ken Blanchard.But I’m wondering how many of us truly have an appetite for it.   After all, it has a way of feeling like bad news much of the time.

Why is that I wonder?  Well, first of all a very common view of feedback is this.  Feedback equals Criticism.

When I looked up the word criticism, here are some synonyms that greeted me…reprehend, censure, reprobate, condemn, denounce. Okay then, I can’t wait to get me some of that!

Often too, the experiences we have around performance management time can bring on an allergic reaction to feedback because, despite good intention, it is often delivered badly and received equally badly…a breakfast of champions complete with sour milk.

Perhaps, then, the task for all of us is to shift the perspective of feedback from one that equals criticism to one that equals opportunity.

So, where is the opportunity in both providing and receiving feedback?

For the Recipient there is opportunity:

for personal growth

We only see ourselves from the inside out.  The value of having others observe us and give us information about what they see helps us ‘round out’ our impression of ourselves.

to make positive change

Information about ourselves gives us a chance to make changes that have some personal meaning.  The hardest part about making change is the commitment it takes to sustain new behaviour.   Knowing why a change is important helps us to remain on course and raises the potential for experiencing positive results from our efforts.

For the Provider there is opportunity:

To build relationships that include trust

Feedback becomes a gift when it is presented sincerely and without judgment.  As well, when it is given as part of a conversation rather than a laundry list of things to fix, it is more palatable for the recipient and allows for deeper understanding on both sides.

To convey belief in the recipient’s capabilities & potential contribution

Giving feedback allows us to paint a picture of what we believe another is truly capable of and to shape our expectations around those beliefs.  If we simply demand a certain level of performance without inviting input or considering what people might need to make it possible, we will likely be met with resentment rather than interest.

Okay, so this might address some of the why for shifting a negative perspective of feedback to a more positive one (and there are doubtless more reasons for doing so as well) but it doesn’t speak to the how.  So here are a few thoughts on that:

As Providers of feedback, if we take the opportunity perspective we must:

Be clear about what we’re looking for

This means that if we are going to observe someone going about their work and then provide meaningful and useful information to them, both parties have to be focusing on the same things.  Feedback, after all, is comprised not of a single conversation but a series of conversations that lead to change and growth.

Make conversation and observation a daily habit

Sitting down with someone once a year to talk about performance and outcomes does not encourage an opportunity based perspective on feedback.  Instead, it becomes something one dreads.  Having daily conversations with people and making daily observations about their activities facilitates good and useful exchanges of information.

Avoid the “poop sandwich” approach

Who is not familiar with this?  Its starts with something positive; ends with something positive and then sandwiches the negative  you-know-what in between.  I personally don’t like this approach because it feels contrived.  And, by the way, no one is fooled by it.

As Recipients of feedback, in taking the opportunity perspective we must:

Participate in the conversation

In my experience, people who say nothing during a session that includes personal feedback can have plenty to say when the session is over, and to people who can only commiserate.  While this might feel good at the time, it really isn’t very helpful.  Participating in the conversation means asking questions.  It sometimes means disagreeing and challenging.  But it also means there is opportunity to understand as well as to be understood.  That alone has great value.

Take the view that feedback is as often positive as it is negative

Whenever someone says, “May I give you some feedback?”  It is tempting to say “Uh-Oh.  What have I done now?”

To be open to receiving feedback I think we must also do our best to wipe out the negative “tapes” that play between our ears about it.  In short, an open mind helps.

The truth is, these discussions are rarely easy.  They take thought, and work, by both parties.  And, because we have this tendency to equate feedback discussions with personal shortcoming, we avoid having them; wait to the last minute to have them; or rush through them in a way that does more harm than good.  I think shifting our perspective  away from criticism and toward opportunity might help

What do you think?

21 Comments

Filed under communication, Human Resources, Performance Management

Going First

Photo by Erik Johansson

Leadership is a very big and often complex topic.  In very simple (possibly even simplistic) terms though, it’s about going first.  It’s also about having a clear sense of purpose and about engaging others in believing that the purpose is something worth pursuing; something that can be trusted; something that will make things better, not worse.

That’s the hard part.  Going first puts us under harsh scrutiny, creates (often vehement) opposition and sometimes gives rise to sabotage.  It also represents change and while we often talk about embracing it, for many of us, embracing change is sort of like, as children, having to give a distant and unfamiliar relative a hug.   You know you should, but you don’t really want to.

Going first asks a lot of us.

It asks us to be bold without being obnoxious  ~ willing to risk rejection, to bend rules, to make new ones, to explore uncharted waters but to resist the belief that only our own views count.

It asks us to be resilient without being stubborn ~ to learn to cope with stress, disappointment, criticism, to bounce back from adversity; but to maintain a level of vulnerability that allows us to express our emotions; show our humanity and accept the things we need to see about ourselves.

It asks us to be tolerant without being a pushover ~ to listen to, and learn from, opposing views but to challenge those that work against our purpose or values.

It asks us to be tough without being callous ~ to hold ourselves and others accountable for the decisions we make but to do so in a way that creates lessons rather than metes out punishment.

It is not an easy road but many choose it because they have a dream; because they see something and want something that the rest of us have yet to consider.  And, they want to help us get there.

So, if you are one of those people, the question is how do you blaze your trail and convince others that it is a road worth following?  Yes, I know.  It’s a very big question.  But, I have some ideas and also some very interesting places to point you to, so here goes:

Keep the Fundamentals of Being a Good Boss in Mind

There is a plethora of Leadership blogs out there.  Frankly, It is hard to determine which ones are going to do the trick for you.  But, here are a couple of places to start.  First, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog is an excellent place to go for reference material and practical down to earth advice about how to be a good boss.  Similarly, Art Petty’s Blog, Management Excellence is equally thought provoking and informative.

The point is, there are a lot of fancy and complicated views about what it means to go first and bring others happily along with you.  Wally and Art will help you to get at what’s most important.

Be Clear about your Vision and Purpose

If you are even the least bit fuzzy about where you want to go, going first can turn into going alone.  This is where bringing clarity to your vision and purpose is critical.  To help you do that, I note that Jesse Lyn Stoner and Ken Blanchard have released a second edition of their book, Full Steam Ahead ~ Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life.  This book is written for those of us who enjoy a good story (and who doesn’t?).  It examines the notion of creating a vision, (which can have rather ethereal connotations) and brings it to life in a very real way.

Develop a Thick Skin

In order to be bold and to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks, going first often creates, we have to learn to take disappointment in stride and to hold ourselves in high enough esteem to weather undue or unfair criticism.

Anne Perschel of Germaine Consulting, recently wrote a blog post entitled,  Hold the Botox – Thicken Your Skin While its message is pointed at women, I think both women and men could learn something about developing resilience from Anne.

As well, I read another post from Jane Perdue in her blog Get Your Big On called, “When Pretty isn’t a Compliment ~ A story of Resilience This story illustrates how easy it is for the balloon of self-confidence to suffer from even the slightest pinprick if we are not vigilant.

And finally:

Learn to Coach …and Get a Coach

If you want to go first with purpose it is always a good idea to find someone you can trust to help you get there and hold you accountable for the things you want and the things you say you are going to do.  A coach can help you with that.  As well, if you want others to follow your lead, learning to be a good coach is a must, especially if you want them to follow you happily.

One of my favourite coaches is Mary Jo Asmus.  Mary Jo writes an excellent blog and one that is on my regular reading list.  One of her most recent posts is entitled, “When You Coach, This is What happens” You will not only get some insights about how to coach but perhaps also see the benefits of having a coach in your own life.

Of course there is much more to learn about going first.  In fact it is a never-ending pursuit.  Hopefully, this has provided something of a start to your own journey, one that will gather many followers.  And, there is a lot I have left out.

What would you add?


16 Comments

Filed under Change Management, Establishing Direction, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Vision, Learning, motivating & Inspiring, Uncategorized

Feedback ~ Criticism or Opportunity?

“Feedback is the breakfast of Champions” or so says Ken Blanchard. But I’m wondering how many of us truly have an appetite for it.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I, like many of you, believe that feedback is an important element in learning and growth.  But, (and there is one) I think it has a way of feeling like bad news a lot of the time.

Why is that I wonder?  Well, first of all a very common view of feedback is this.  Feedback equals Criticism.

When I looked up the word criticism, here are some synonyms that greeted me…reprehend, censure, reprobate, condemn, denounce. Okay then, I can’t wait to get me some of that!

Often too, the experiences we have around performance management time can bring on an allergic reaction to feedback because, despite good intention, it is often delivered badly and received equally badly…a breakfast of champions complete with sour milk.

Perhaps, then, the task for all of us is to shift the perspective of feedback from one that equals criticism to one that equals opportunity.

So, where is the opportunity in both delivering and receiving feedback?  Here’s what I’ve been thinking:

For the Receiver there is opportunity

1. For personal growth in learning how others see us.

After all, we only see ourselves from the inside out.  The value of having others observe us and give us information about what they see is undeniable.

2. For positive change

Information about ourselves gives us a chance to make changes that have some personal meaning.  I think the hardest part about making change is the commitment it takes to sustain new behaviour.   Knowing why a change is important helps us to remain on course and raises the potential for experiencing positive results from our efforts.

For the Giver there is opportunity:

3. To build relationships that include trust

Feedback becomes a gift when it is presented sincerely and without judgment.  As well, when it is given as part of a conversation rather than a laundry list of things to fix, it is more palatable for the receiver and allows for deeper understanding on both sides.

4.  To convey  belief in the receiver’s capabilities & potential contribution

Giving feedback allows us to paint a picture of what we believe another is truly capable of and to shape our expectations around those beliefs.  If we simply demand a certain level of performance without inviting input or considering what people might need to make it possible, we will likely be met with resentment rather than interest.

Okay, so this might address some of the why for shifting a negative perspective of feedback to a more positive one (and there are doubtless more reasons for doing so as well) but it doesn’t speak to the how.  So here are a few of my thoughts on that:

As Givers of feedback if we take the opportunity perspective we must:

1. Be clear about what we’re looking for

This means that if we are going to observe someone going about their work and then provide meaningful and useful information to them, both parties have to be focusing on the same things.  Feedback, after all, is comprised not of a single conversation but a series of conversations that lead to change and growth.

2. Make conversation and observation a daily habit

Sitting down with someone once a year to talk about performance and outcomes does not engender an opportunity based perspective on feedback.  Instead, it becomes something one dreads.  Having daily conversations with people and making daily observations about their activities facilitates good and useful exchanges of information.

3. Avoid the “poop sandwich” approach

Who is not familiar with this?  Its starts by saying something positive; ends with something positive and then sandwiches the not-so-good stuff in between.  I personally don’t like this approach because it feels contrived.  And, by the way, no one is fooled by it.

As Receivers of feedback, in taking the opportunity perspective we must:

4. Participate in the conversation

In my experience, people who say nothing during a session that includes personal feedback can have plenty to say when the session is over, and to people who can only serve to commiserate.  While this might feel good at the time, it really isn’t very helpful.  Participating in the conversation means asking questions.  It sometimes means disagreeing and challenging.  But it also means there is opportunity to understand as well as to be understood.  That alone has great value.

5. Take the view that feedback is as often positive as it is negative

Whenever someone says, “May I give you some feedback?”  It is tempting to say “Uh-Oh.  What have I done now?”

To be open to receiving feedback I think we must also do our best to wipe out the negative “tapes” that play between our ears about it.  In short, an open mind helps.

So, what are your thoughts about giving and receiving feedback?  What is your experience with it?  What would you add?

Oh, and just in case you want to learn more, try reading Joe Folkman’s book, Turning Feedback into Change” It’s a useful reference book for those who want to better understand the principles around personal development and making change through feedback.

6 Comments

Filed under Building Relationships, Change Management, communication, Employee engagement, Self Knowledge