People Need Feedback

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. – Bill Gates

According to 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, failing to provide feedback is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don’t provide prompt feedback to your people, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance.

Lots of people have lost their jobs for the simply reason that their boss was too big of a chicken to give them the feedback they needed to improve. Yes, just because you’re a boss doesn’t mean you can’t be a chicken too.

Have you ever been in a position where you had to let someone go? Were they shocked to discover that their performance wasn’t sufficient to keep their job? Then it’s most likely that you failed to provide them the feedback the needed to improve their performance. No one should ever be blindsided by their own firing, they should see it coming from miles and months away.

When Bill Gates said “We all need feedback” he truly meant “all.” No one sees themselves as other people see them. We have the ability to justify behavior in ourselves that we wouldn’t tolerate in other people. We use the “yea, but” defense to let ourselves off the hook way too easily.

Even your most seasoned people need feedback. They need another set of eyes, another set of values, and a different batch of experiences to provide them with other views that they can’t get from a mirror.

It’s not just your people who need feedback. You as a leader need feedback too. If your people see you as an Authentic Serving Leader they will likely provide you with at least some of the feedback you need. If they see you as a boss you’re in big trouble because you won’t be receiving any feedback from the people in the best position to provide it to you. They probably won’t trust you enough to be truthful with you.

If you’re in a leadership position then you owe it to your people to help them grow by giving them thoughtful, meaningful, relevant feedback. Consistently. Do not “store up” feedback for their annual review, provide them with useful information on their performance, both good and not so good, that they can use throughout the year.

When you provide the needed feedback you eliminate mistakes, minimize stress, both yours and your people’s, and potentially grow future leaders.

If you’re truly a leader you also owe it to yourself to allow your people to provide you with the feedback YOU need to grow. You simply must have people on your team who trust you enough to be honest with you. You can only build that trust by not “shooting the messenger” when they provide you with feedback. Feel free to disagree if you must but don’t do it defensively. And never never never retaliate for feedback meant to help you, whether it’s accurate feedback or not.

But….. and this is a BIG but; to do any of this you must get over your own fear of confrontation, of being thought of as a hard ass, or a jerk. If you’re truly an Authentic Serving Leader you will invest the time required to give your people feedback in a way that they can accept and use, to their benefit and yours.

If you’re frustrated with your people constantly making the same mistakes then STOP being frustrated and START providing the kind of feedback that leads to real behavioral change.

That’s what leaders do.

 

Be a Two-Timing Coach

The phrase “two-timer” certainly has a well deserved negative connotation to it. It is most often used to define a person who is cheating in a relationship with another person.

In coaching however being a “two-timer” can be a very good thing.

Too many coaches, managers and even leaders think of coaching solely in terms of correcting a mistake of some kind. You could call those coaches, managers, and leaders a “one-time” coach. The only time they think to coach is when they see something wrong.

But truly great coaches and leaders know that another effective time to coach is when things go well. Coaching at these times is positive re-enforcement that tends to cement the “right” behavior that is being coached.

A key responsibility of an effective leader is to build and help their people become successful. That requires consistent, thoughtful and meaningful coaching, when things go wrong AND when things go right.

Leaders who coach increase the performance of their people, increase the satisfaction of their people and increase the value of their people to the team. They also reduce what is known as the “reality gap.” This is the gap that exists between what the leader sees the team member doing and what the team member believes they are doing. In the healthiest organizations there is very little gap.

The best leaders coach when the gap is becoming larger or smaller.

To coach effectively you’ll need these skills and characteristics:

Set a good example. If your words don’t match your actions then you simply cannot coach. Your people will do what you do light years before they will do what you say. As a leader you are the “model” for successful behavior. Or not.

See the big picture. As a coach and a leader you need to see a bigger picture than your followers. While it’s acceptable for your followers to merely see the consequences of their actions you must be see the consequences of the consequences. That comes with experience; successful coaches and leaders share their experience with others.

Be a good listener. Great coaches and Authentic Servant Leaders use more than just their ears to listen. They use their heart, their eyes, their experience, and their intuition. They do not prejudge what is being said and they focus on the person speaking. They pay full attention to what is being said and they do not interrupt the speaker. Great listeners know this simple truth; if you’re talking you’re not listening. The fact is, if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next you’re not listen then either.

Desire to see other people grow. Leadership, true leadership at least, is not about the leader. It is about the people they lead. If you do not have a genuine, sincere desire to see other people grow you will never risk the caring, compassionate confrontation that comes with good coaching. When you’re committed to seeing other people grow you will coach, it’s just about that simple.

There really is little difference in the skills required to close the reality gap through coaching whether the gap is getting bigger or smaller. The one major difference is that when the gap is getting larger and you’re likely coaching for corrective action, the coaching must be done in private. Public embarrassment is not coaching.

When the gap is getting smaller however the coaching can indeed be public. It can be used to highlight the “right” behavior being coached. Celebrating the good stuff in the presence of the entire team tends to make the “right” behavior a bit contagious.

If you’re a “one-time” kind of coach then your people may think of you as “the boss” but they probably don’t think of you as a leader.

Coach early, coach often. Coach in bad times AND good, one is certainly less stressful than the other but both are the purview of Authentic Servant Leadership.


Do Your People Know?

I’m sure your people know what they’re doing. The question is: do your people know that what they are doing matters? Do they know that they do important work? Do they know that they are valued? 

As a leader, you need to be certain that they do. Knowing that what they do matters will make a big difference in how well they do it. When they know their role impacts others they become better team players and will “out perform” their own expectations.

Never critique or criticize your people without also telling them why it matters that they perform at a higher level, how their efforts “fit” into the big picture. Don’t wear out your leadership by constantly pushing your people – let them know they and their job matters and they will push themselves a bit too.

Your people need many things to perform up to their potential and none of those “things” is more important than recognition. Consistent, intentional, meaningful, and sincere recognition. If you’re a leader and you can’t find a reason to regularly recognize your team members then you must have the wrong people in the wrong positions. 

By the way, “nice job” is a cliche, not recognition. Recognition is specific, it offers evidence to support why the recognition is being given. It requires sincere thoughtfulness to provide genuine recognition. Don’t just recognize, invest the time to recognize correctly. 

Telling yourself that your people don’t need recognition or don’t deserve recognition is the excuse of a lazy leader. If you’re not giving your people their due then YOU need to step it up and actually lead.

I know you’re up to it, you know you’re up to it. You know how important it is. You know it’s the right thing to do. 

The only question is…. will you do it? 

Can a Leader Care Too Much?

The title to this post comes from a question I was asked after my last post. The quick answer is NO, a leader can’t care too much.

The complete answer is a whole lot longer and far more complicated. I don’t believe that an authentic leader can care too much, they can’t “over care” and it’s wrong to suggest that it’s not possible to excel as a leader when you “care too much.” 

Now, here’s where it gets complicated. While you can’t care too much. caring a lot can cause an inexperienced leader to underperform. They use caring to substitute for coaching and accountability. They can have the mistaken belief that they can’t both care about and confront or coach a team member at the same time. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. I have been fortunate to work for some very caring people. One was perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met. There was never a doubt that he cared about his people. He said it and he showed it often. Absolutely 100% of his coaching comments were positive, in several years of working for him there was never any corrective action or changes suggested. 

I wish I could tell you I was that good, I was not. His caring personality got in the way of true leading. He allowed me to drift and develop some poor habits. While I was comfortable and enjoyed working for him, I didn’t grow.  

My experience with this leader is not uncommon. Lots of people work for a leader they would describe as “the nicest person” or as a person “who really cares”. That’s great but as important as caring is, caring alone does not make you a leader. 

To be an authentic leader you must use your caring nature to coach, motivate and nurture your people. Sometimes that will mean having a difficult conversation with them. Which leads me to the second example.

Many of you know that for several years I worked with the Dale Carnegie organization. The person I reported to cared about me as a person, I never doubted that. He also held me accountable and coached the heck out of me. He used nearly every principle from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to do it in a way that motivated me to improve. 

I was motivated to improve because it was the right thing to do but more than that, I was motivated to improve “for” that leader because I knew his coaching came with my best interests in mind. 

Good leaders care enough to show it and great leaders care enough to show it and make the extra effort to coach anyway. It will take a bit more effort to confront and coach in a compassionate way so that your caring nature is not lost in the process. 

Authentic leaders know that the very best way to show you care is to help your people succeed. 

Make no mistake about this: caring is no substitute for accountability and coaching. If you care so much for people that you just can’t hold them accountable and help them reach their full potential then you might be a great person but you’re probably not a great leader.

Care AND coach to make a difference that lasts! 

What Would You do to Succeed?

I would do anything in order to _____________________. Go ahead and fill in the blank for yourself. Have you ever said that to yourself or to someone else? I’ve said it when it was clear to the people around me that it wasn’t true. When I took the time to reflect on what I had said it became obvious to me as well that it wasn’t true. 

That statement is said so often it has almost become just a throw-away line. Something we say when we’re envious for example. It’s something we say when we wish we had the skill, accomplishment or success that someone else has. 

Lots of people say they would give anything at all to succeed. But when you watch them for a while it appears as if they actually wouldn’t give anything at all. They are not willing to do anything to help themselves succeed. When they say they would “do anything” it’s simply not true.

They want a skill, accomplishment, fame, or success but what they don’t want is the effort and commitment it takes to acquire it. 

Lots of people also say they are committed but others see no evidence of that commitment. If I or another coach or trainer were to observe you for a week would we see any outward signs of your commitment? Would we see you doing anything, anything at all, that would indicate you’re serious about making an effort to achieve your coveted goal?

Commitment Requires action! Action, action that leads to success anyway, requires a plan.

Do you have a plan? Have you made a personal investment? Have you made a personal sacrifice? Have you in fact done anything at all to succeed other than want success? I hate to be so blunt but wishing for and complaining about what other people have does not get you anything worthwhile. The reality is if you just sit on your behind and wait, hope and wish you’ll never get close to reaching your potential and earning the success available to you.

If you’re not willing to give anything up or do anything different then you shouldn’t expect anything different or better in return. The truth is, not only would you not “give anything,” apparently you wouldn’t give anything at all.

You need to make a plan, you need to set some goals, you need to have a timeline. You need to have a coach or mentor who will hold you accountable to all of the above.

Time can be your greatest asset or your biggest enemy, it all depends on whether you use it or waste it. Don’t let another day, hour or even minute go by without making a real commitment to take action. 

You can achieve your goals, you can accomplish great things. People and “things” will seem to conspire along the way to try and stop you. Never, never, never become a co-conspirator with them. 

Let other people spout the “I’d give anything” talk while you’re taking the steps required to succeed in your quest.

That’s how successful people do it!  

How Coachable Are You?

They say that in football (okay, in American football) defense wins games. That seems to be the case, especially in the big games.

It’s a very different story in the game of self-improvement. Defense loses. Loses big as a matter of fact. The more defensive you are when someone is giving you advice the harder it will be for you to succeed.

Every long-term successful person I know has had or does have a coach or a mentor. It’s usually someone that they admire. Perhaps it’s someone they aspire to be like. Whatever the case, it’s always someone they trust and they trust them enough to let their defenses down and really listen to what they have to say.

If you’re going to be coachable enough to accelerate your chances at success you’re going to have to accept that pretty much everything your coach or mentor tells you is possible.

It’s possible you’re not as good as you think you are in some areas. It’s possible that other people see some things in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s even possible that you’re better in some areas than you think you are.

If you’ve chosen the right coach or mentor then LISTEN to them. Not only is it possible they are right, it is likely that they are right.

Here’s a little test to determine if you’re really listening – after you’re offered advice do you respond with a quick “yes, but?” That quick “yes, but” is a good indicator that you’re not listening. Now, you crafty people that never say that – if you’re thinking it then that is another good indicator that you’re not really listening.

Coachable people are great listeners. They are willing to learn from anyone. They consider all advice; even the advice they eventually discard was considered for it’s possibilities.

If you are fortunate enough to have a coach or a mentor then follow their advice. They have your best interests at heart. Listen to them, watch them, learn from them. You can take years off your journey to success if you’re willing to accept the fact that other people may just know some stuff that you don’t.

One last thought – some of those people that might know something you don’t…. well some of those people might just be people that you don’t trust. They might be people that you don’t like.

If you’re open minded you can still learn from those people. They may not intend to help you but if you pay close attention you can learn from them. You may learn what to do or you may learn what not to do but either way you learn. All knowledge is useful when you’re striving to succeed.

The most successful people learn something everyday and they are willing to learn from anyone.

Are you coachable enough and successful enough to do that?