THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Giving and Receiving Feedback – Part 1

There is an art to both giving and receiving feedback.  Get it wrong, either way, and you are left with a problem one way or the other.  Take care and do it right and it can be an enriching experience for both parties.  So how come so many folk are poor at both?  How difficult can it be?  What does it involve? This week we look at:

“How can you improve the way you give feedback?”

First and foremost, feedback is NOT disapproval, criticism or a personal attack.  It should be given for improvement purposes.  It should be both constructive and consistent, offered by someone in an informed position, and then it can be useful.  Therefore, it should be focussed on those things that you do which impact on others and goes to the route of your personal effectiveness in this respect. I don’t know one single soul who wouldn’t find critical feedback difficult to receive.  It’s hard to maintain a non-defensive and open attitude, as the implication is that we are flawed or wrong.  So there are various things you can do with feedback, however it is delivered:

  1. accept it, and act upon it;
  2. refuse to accept it and bin it; or
  3. hear it and file it for a later date.

Whatever we choose to do with it, we all have the right to expect it to be given in a respectful and supportive manner.  So lets look at a very quick check list to remind us what Giving Feedback should look like in an ideal world.

The more immediate the feedback, the more helpful it will be

  • Be descriptive rather than judgemental: accurate, simple, clear, vivid and specific
  • Direct praise or criticism towards performance in behavioural terms i.e. to what the person did rather than who they are
  • Be supportive, not authoritarian or dogmatic – encourage the receiver to contribute their view from their perspective
  • Be fair and reasonable, supporting judgements with evidence from observations
  • Be positive as well as negative – create balance
  • Offer constructive criticism only for actions which can be changed, and are related to well understood and accepted criteria
  • Don’t compare the person’s behaviour with that of others – ever!</li> <li>Restrict feedback to what can be absorbed and understood at one time
  • Do not apologise for giving it when it is made in good faith and supported by evidence.

This checklist is much more helpful and effective in situations characterised by rapport between the parties involved.  It is underpinned by a skill in selecting and phrasing appropriate statements and questions.  So using the right kind of questions is vitally important in making this a successful experience for both parties.  Those questions shouldn’t make the recipient feel under pressure so open questions are the best.  For example:

  • To what extent does this …. ?
  • Explain to me how …. ?
  • Tell me about …. ?
  • Describe to me how … ?
  • Can you tell me why … ?
  • To what do you attribute …. ?
  • What importance does this have in relation to … ?

So from this, we can easily determine what a GOOD example of giving feedback would look like.  It would look a little like this:

  • Attuned : contextualised, non-aggressive, focusing on improvement of action not personality
  • Insightful  : focussed on behaviour rather than personality – unemotional
  • Investment  : meets the growth needs of the other person – don’t overload
  • Direct : clearly stated with no ambiguity
  • Well Judged : delivered with sensitivity and empathy, avoiding insult or being demeaning
  • Grounded : Based on examples and supported by listening
  • Well timed : Given quickly after the prompting event, or at the best possible next opportunity
  • Feeling : Given thoughtfully, with total regard for positive consequences. Delivered in a non-threatening and encouraging manner.

I have an easy way to remember this, it being my responsibility at the end of the day, by the saying:

All I Invest Does Jolly Good Things Forever.    Let me know how you get on practicing this, I’m all ears – good and bad!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 7 (Final)

This week begins with a apology for being one day late!  No excuse, merely a very good reason.  Our relocation has all come together quickly this week and we’ve been dealing with exchange of contracts and removal firms as a priority, in readiness for the big move west on Friday 30th November 2012 🙂

So all that aside, the final part of our review of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People brings us to Habit 7:

“Sharpen the Saw”

This means that its critical that you take time, every now and again but definitely on a regular basis, to sharpen your physical, spiritual, mental, social and emotional dimensions.  It’s about refreshing these skills, spending time on yourself to focus on what’s important to you and your professional endeavours to become a better and more effective professional person.


It’s well known that a healthy body means a healthy attitude and mind.  Spending just 30 minutes a day exercising, getting off that bus a stop or two early, will preserve and enhance your capacity to work and adapt.  Equally, it will give you that precious time to practice Habit 6 perhaps – synergising knotty issues of the day/week before, or even Habit 3 – Putting First things First (Prioritising).


A spiritual dimension rests at the very route of your core values system.  It is very related to Habit 2 – Beginning with the end in mind.  Keeping focus on dreams, doing something every single week towards that end goal will inspire and uplift you.  The key in this respect is to make sure it is being refreshed frequently.  Immersion in something highly creative is my own method – off I toddle with my camera around my neck and I achieve all sorts of clarity in things I’ve struggled with for some time!


Formal education teaches the process of  mental development.  Learn something new, create a personal discipline in something which will stimulate the mind.  It’s well knows that learning something new can allow you to think differently about something you’ve been struggling with for a while.

Social & Emotional

This is centred in the principles discussed during Habits 4, 5 and 6.  The skills required to renew the social and the emotional dimensions of our lives require communication and creative co-operation.  Refresh those networking skills, whether that be via LinkedIn or the more traditional route in face to face business events.  Reconnect with those you haven’t spoken to for far too long, purposefully refresh those connections and in the process, make new ones.  Expand your network in a purposeful manner and welcome the new opportunities and views that process will produce.

Everything you do to “sharpen your saw” will have a positive impact in all other dimensions, they are highly interrelated.   A daily habit of spending one hour on yourself – whenever suits you – is the key to the development of the 7 Habits.  Learn it, commit to it and then do it!  Gandhi once said:

they cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them”  so reclaim what is yours and invest in it – because you are worth it!

Mentorship & Me – Part 14 – Peggy Edwards – Has Anything Changed?

Well folks I have fallen off the wagon; emails going fine, to-do list still banished but the red in me did rear its ugly head again last week, be it for a brief moment. I reacted badly and immediately to what I took as a personal and public verbal onslaught by a manager. Instead of taking in a deep breath, they got my old self, responding with as good as I felt I received. So my mentor poses the question what has changed (and what on earth is she going to do with me)?

Actually, a lot has changed, yes the genie was out of the bottle, but he was put back in again very quickly. Also I recognised that the situation was handled badly instead of justifying it to myself as I would have done previously. I also took the time to reflect and discuss it with my line manager and formulate a strategy for handling the ongoing situation and future potential encounters. Mentorship has helped me recognise that my behaviour, at times, isn’t how I would like the world to think of (or remember) me, those times are now few and far between.

Mind you it was a bit of a shock to those around at the time…….they now know what they are in for if they rattle me enough.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 6

“Habit 6 – Asks us to synergise!”

Meaning what, I hear you say.  Well, it asks us to appreciate and seek out the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and to actively play a personal part in creating this scenario.  In other words, parts can combine to create new and excitingly unexpected discoveries that would not have been possible on their own.  Call it creative co-operation, call it whatever you like, but the principle is that, as effective leaders, we should be the one looked to in order to spot those parts, and actively pull them together in order to make unique and marvelous circumstances.  It is the very manifestation of all the other habits, combined.

Would an example help?  Thought it might!

Yesterday, I ran a session which was the very process of discovery.  A very special team I work with were struggling to find their own path through a difficult problem they were grappling with.  The solution was blindingly obvious to me (Habit 2 if you remember was “Begin with the end in sight”), but not to them, and they were the ones who had to present and lead a session which would do just this: ie bring together a diverse group of individuals and produce a commonly agreed way forward.

They were very focussed on the differences between everyones agendas and couldn’t see the wood for the trees given these very real and omnipresent differences.

I listened intently to someone drafting these differences out, painstakingly, on a very large white board.  (Habit 5 if you remeber was “Seek first to understand, then to be undersood”).   I tried to understand the problem from their perspective and came to the conclusion that they lived and breathed this problem every day, and in their day jobs they were too close to it.  So I deployed my favourite: Habit 3, Putting first things first and tried to do a gentle bit of prioritisation, what is both important AND urgent? So I I suggested we think about a “win win” approach given the event is less than 2 weeks away, focussing them on what they needed to get out of the session, that would also help (if not in the totality, but in some simple way) the diverse group that would be in the room: ie find the common ground (Habit 4 if you remember was think win/win – everyone always needs mutually beneficial solutions).  So we spent some time instead of thinking about the differences, thinking about the similarities, and before long, we had a couple of things that were suitable to be the focus of the session.

They loved the session and actually said it was the best one they had had in ages.  Last night I reflected upon why they should say that and came to the conclusion that the PROCESS I led was one of SYNERGISING (Habit 6!) but most importantly, they felt they had been hugely involved and that the solutions had come from them. This is the very essence of team spirit, when you work along synergistic lines you can never be sure what the final result will be.  The only thing you can be certain of is that the end result of applying method will truly justify the means. 

You literally can achieve more as a combined group than you ever could alone.  Another examples which spring to mind of this sort of process include: working on developing a mission statement.

BUT BEWARE: I would say that this sort of process requires very high levels of mutual trust.  Trust then brings mutual co-operation.  If trust is low, participants will eternally protect their own interests.  If trust only reaches a medium level, you get respectful communication with polite intellectual compromise. 

I have a relationship of very high trust with the team I worked with yesterday.  It worked!  As Edwin Markham once said:

We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; now let us commit it to life

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 5

“Habit 5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood”

This is an interesting week, and focusses on the key starting point of influence – to understand the person you are trying to influence first, then to convince from an alternative point of view.

Everyone has a natural tendency to rush in and try to give advice or try to fix thinbgs before taking the time to diagnose or try to understand why the other person feels the way they do.  The trick however, is to seek first to understand the other person, then to try and be understood yourself.

Effective listening is the key, and few have training in this field compared with the number of years we spend learning how to read and write. We see this skill in may professions:

  • lawyers gather facts to understand situations;
  • engineers will understand forces and stresses to design a structure;

The key to good judgement must be preceded by sound understanding.  Getting the order of this wrong will cost you!

Last week we discussed win/win strategies: these require high degrees of both consideration and courage and the recipe is as follows:

  • seek first to understand; (to understand requires consideration)
  • then try to be understood yourself; (to be understood requires courage)
  • maturity is the balance of courage and consideration;

The Greeks cracked this early on via thier philosophy of : Ethos, Pathos and Logos.

  • Wthos is your credibility, integrity and competency;
  • Pathos is the feeling – being in emotional alignment with the other person, ie: empathetic listening; and
  • Logos is the logic, the reasoning element.

The order is important, judge lastly!  Seeking first to understand is well within your personal control, you can do it right now, today!  So go on, start this one immediately and see how it goes.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 4

“Habit 4 – Think win/win”

Refining this habit is the most effective way of working with other people.  It’s focussed on results not methods.

There are 6 basic paradigms of human interactions:

1. win/win: this is a mindset which constantly seeks mutual benefit with all parties feeling good about decisions and committed.

2. win/lose: authoritarian approach which uses a personal power base

3. lose/win: one party rolls over and allows the other to do whatever it likes.

4. lose/lose: bitter and so centred on the “enemy” you are willing to hurt your own interests if it also means they lose too.

5. win: self interested, leaving other party to look out for themselves.

6. win/win or no deal: general agreement to disagree if mutually agreeable deal cannot be reached.

In developing (1) or (6), you will need to harmonise 5 dimensions, being:

a. Character: this requires integrity, maturity and mentality (on both parts).  Both need to realise the plethora of opportunities available.

b. Relationships: This is your Emotional Bank Account.  Make deposits often, build up credit with those you need to negotiate with over a period of time.  It brings credibility and trust.  this sort of relationship is absolutely key to any successful negotiation.

c. Agreements: Give definition and direction. Effective negotiations focus on desired results rather than methods to be followed.

d. Systems: The organisations both parties operate within need to support a win/win mindset.  This includes all things like: training/planning/budgeting/communication/information and compensation, all having to support a win/win mindset.

e. Processes: Ability to separate the person from the problem.  Focus on interests and outcomes rather than on positions.  All options should result in positive mutual gain.  These processes are more fully discussed in Parts 5 and 6 of this series, so keep coming back!

%d bloggers like this: