Archives for January 2019
Talented people want to improve. Even small opportunities for adjustment are valuable. Receiving negative feedback is one of the most important paths to improvement.
Many managers avoid the negative feedback. “It’s a small thing.” is one excuse for not sharing the feedback. Many managers save negative feedback for the performance review, which is often a tragedy. Much time is lost and the negative feedback is more painful.
The most tragic lack of feedback is when someone is 45-years-old and has a career limiting behavior of which he is not aware. Managers have known the issue since he was 35-year-old. The individual gets stuck for 10 years. When he learns at 45, makes corrections, his career is already 10 years off track. “If only I had known this ten years ago!” is a common refrain we hear in coaching.
Two to Tango
Honest, compassionate, clear, timely and constructive feedback is the objective. The more the subordinate believes the manager has his/her best interest in mind, the better the environment is for communication. Many managers, also, want to feel respected when they give feedback. If they risk a strong negative reaction, it will often cut off feedback.
The main benefactor of negative feedback is the recipient. If you want to encourage someone to give you honest feedback, you must be open to it and accept it gracefully.
Deborah Grayson Riegel teaches management communication at Wharton School of Business. Here is a summary built on her suggestions:
- Give yourself negative feedback first such as, “I know that I tend to work quickly and sometimes overlook important details. I’d like to get better at that. Do you have any thoughts on how I could improve?” And then, once you have them talking, you can ask, “And is there anything else I could be working to improve right now?”
- Lay out your development plan and ask for help. List three things you are working on next. Ask if your manager thinks those are the most important and if there is anything else to be focused on at this time. Request ongoing progress reports.
- Frame as looking for the opportunity to improve. “What is something you think I need to learn to be more effective?” You can ask what the manager learned that would be helpful for you to learn. It frames feedback as a win-win opportunity.
- When receiving feedback that is minimized as “Just one little thing …” express appreciation for the feedback and ask follow-up questions for clarity and suggestions for improvement. Be clear. Say you really appreciate any constructive feedback no matter how big or small.
Pain Verses Hurt
Physical and emotional pain are natural and help us grow. Difficult feedback can be painful. It is the pain that helps us move to improve. We call it “tough love” when raising children. Caring and honest feedback that creates pain is a gift. It needs to be viewed that way by both the giver and receiver of the feedback.
Hurt is not constructive. It is often inflicted by bullies. It does not encourage growth. It injures people with no redeeming value. This is not the feedback we are discussing.
Reflection and Personal Feedback
One other source of feedback is your mirror. If you take time to reflect on what has gone well for you and explored your part in what happened it can be very productive. I find journaling to be very helpful. Many others do as well.
If you get feedback from a loved one, be sure to at least consider what might be true. It is often easy to brush away “nagging” comments. We do extensive surveys for our clients of the people they work with regularly. When clients show the data to their spouse, the response is, “That’s what I have told you for years.”
Sounds like a learning opportunity is close at hand.
The company I worked for had budget pressures and decided the management team would be assigned to teach courses to save training budget. (Yes, it is a crazy concept.) I was asked to teach a one-day “Time Management Course“.
I asked how many of the 25 people in the room had taken a time management course before. The hands of 24 people went up. “OK, what is the first thing you do?”
“Prioritize your tasks” was the agreed-upon approach.
“What do you do next?” I asked.
“Do #1 on your list” they agreed.
With that, I said “Great – you all know how to manage your time!” I walked out of the room. I stayed out long enough for them to wonder if I was coming back.
Simple and Not Easy
When I returned, we discussed why the SIMPLE rules of time management are NOT EASY to implement. If people had taken a course before … why are they here to take another time management course? There are thousands of courses on time management. There are probably a thousand phone apps that promise to help you manage your time and priorities. Almost any of them will help if you work at it. What does it mean to work at it?
The former President of Weight Watchers shared with David Letterman the single secret to weight loss … counting calories. All the diets and approaches can be distilled down to paying attention to what you are eating or not eating. When people reach their goal weight and stop counting calories, most people gain their excess weight back.
Time Management is somewhat like a diet. Instead of counting calories, you’re counting minutes. Are each of your minutes productive in reaching your goals? You need to make a plan and count your actual use of time. Your plan and actual will not be the same for each day of the week. If you know where and when there is a gap between plan and actual … you have a chance to get better.
Good Habits Take Time
At the end of the day, look at what did, and did not, get done on the priority list. Make note of what caused you to go off course and not get top priorities done.
The victory list for the new day should be a fresh list. It may or may not include undone items from the prior day. Deciding you do not need to do something on the list or delegating an item is a great time saver.
Learn to say “no” to interruptions from others and from yourself. Know your priorities and remember them continually.
At least weekly, look at all the things that did not get done. Ask why they did not get done. Hint: Usually there is an emotional component, such as wanting to please someone who is requesting your time; avoiding an uncomfortable task; getting distracted by something interesting, but less important, such as social media (big time killer), etc. Do you need to break goals into smaller pieces so you can make progress in a day?
There are items that must be done and only you can do them. They cannot be delegated. Make sure the key activities are not pushed out of your day by non-key activities. Examples of key activities are: relationships, planning, preparation, personal health, leadership, etc. Several of my clients have found blocking two hours a day (and holding on to at least one of the hours daily) for thinking and key activities has significantly improved their time management and effectiveness.
If you save 20 minutes each workday by focusing on priorities, that equals two work-weeks each year. What could you do with that additional time?
Not Easy, But Worth it
Can I walk out of the room now? Time management is simple. Time management is not easy. Time management is not complicated. Time management has high payback.