Giving feedback on someone's performance and behaviour at work - both positive and negative - is probably the most simple and cost effective means of improving performance. Yet UK employees say they do not receive enough of it.
For the feedback to be optimally useful it should not be saved until the annual performance appraisal meeting. In high performance companies, giving and receiving feedback constructively is a normal part of the working day. So what is your experience of giving and receiving feedback?
When we talk about feedback, people often focus on giving rather than receiving feedback. Yet it is often the case that those who are the most effective feedback providers have already mastered the practice of receiving it well first. This is a valuable professional skill and will help you to hone your own capabilities and competences as well as preparing you to manage others more effectively and confidently.
Unfortunately feedback is often not carried out well. If you have experienced poorly given feedback in the past you are probably less inclined to ask for more of it and are also less likely to be comfortable giving feedback to others. The negative impact of poorly provided feedback tends to further undermine the value and benefit of feedback that is delivered well. In short, if you have had a negative feedback experience you are more likely to avoid asking for it, and when you provide it, more likely to give it poorly.
So, what steps should you take to prepare yourself to receive feedback well? Follow the link below to my 6 tips for receiving feedback effectively and to take my short assessment to help you identify your areas of strength and weakness.
Many coaching clients talk to me about experiencing stress and anxiety when, for example, they are asked to give a presentation, attend a job interview or have a difficult conversation. In the coaching work that follows we then look at techniques and activities to address these challenging emotions. One of these approaches is to think about, and potentially alter, how the stressful situation is being viewed.
In 2013, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal introduced a new perspective on experiencing stress and anxiety such that the sensation of anxiety is reinterpreted in a positive, energising way to boost performance. [To see Dr McGonigal's talk on her work see here].
Based upon this area of work, writer and speaker Simon Sinek has described his own practice of this approach in the following short interview. I hope you find it helpful:
If you would like to explore and develop your own approach to managing stress and anxiety with me, get in touch - email@example.com
If you follow LinkedIn or read self-help books and magazines you'll have come across the sage advice of 'experts' to just follow your career dream. Whether you want to earn your living as a teacher, a songwriter or a professional footballer, you should just follow your dream (and the jury's still out on whether following your dream as a way to make a living is good or bad advice!). Either way, these articles relate to those people who have something they're passionate about and want to make a living from. But what if you're one of the many people who don't have a career dream?
Goal setting is an essential part of most coaching programmes. But it is also an important activity to carry out in our day-to-day lives when we want to achieve things and enjoy a sense of purpose.
When we are feeling aimless, dissatisfied and lacking a sense of control, it is often because we haven't given thought to our goals. If we want to change those frustrations to feeling purposeful, content and focused, the process of goal setting itself, and not just the goals that result, is valuable:
“People who set goals are more likely to succeed than people who do not.” Tal Ben Shahar, Harvard University
If you would like to discuss how coaching can help you to discover a sense of purpose, a clear sense of direction and set goals, get in touch for an initial exploratory conversation.
e: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01223 655667/07711 503382
In common with other personality characteristics, we all vary in our approach to conflict; some of us will go out of our way to avoid disagreement, while others will go out of their way to engage in it. Most of us are somewhere in-between, and where we 'sit' on this continuum contributes to an overall sense of how "agreeable" we are in communication with others. The impact of our approach to conflict can be significant. Whilst we readily comprehend that being overly combative can be problematic, many fail to recognise how problematic being overly conflict-avoidant can be.
This is a line occasionally used in therapy and counselling to differentiate the various stages and outcomes of the work. It can apply to coaching too and sometimes highlights a common trap some people get into when they first consider coaching.
The initial stage of a coaching relationship, which involves discussing the current situation (and sometimes issues and problems), often serves to make you feel better. This might be in part because you have been considering coaching for some time but have just summoned up the time/courage/energy to get started. Having that first conversation can feel like a positive "phew!" moment. Having someone to listen to you, who is interested and focused specifically on you and your situation, can be a revelation, overwhelming for some, and a huge relief to others. Whilst this can sometimes be difficult, for most people, this provides a feeling of well-being and a sense of feeling better. However occasionally, perhaps if the timing isn't right or because of other problems, the person doesn't move on from this stage - which is to think about their goals, the changes they wish to make and to doing things differently. Instead what happens is the person keeps reverting back to further "problem talk" and strongly resists thinking about possible options or solutions. Engaging in problem talk makes us feel better but it doesn't help us get better or improve or change the situation.
When we move into the 'getting better' stages the real work is beginning. This is the stage when you are focused on your goals, on creating new possibilities and the sometimes difficult task of doing things differently and sticking to it. This stage involves defining the changes, the goals or the future you are looking to achieve. It involves getting 'out of your head' and getting into action. It risks you being out of your comfort zone, being uncomfortable and risking failure. It also risks you succeeding, achieving your goals, changing your situation - what might that mean to you? How will that change other relationships, your lifestyle, your expectations? This stage is all about growth and development - it's where you succeed in moving from A to B - it's where things get better.
Often making changes is the easy bit. Maybe you have determined upon a brilliant new way of managing your time and workload better, or have improved your skills in dealing with difficult people. You may be itching to get cracking. As we all know, sticking to those plans, good intentions or the assertive 'new you' can be the hard part. This stage is where the changes you are making become consolidated and more habitual. It can take time and certainly takes sustained effort. Coaching helps you to find appropriate ways to keep going, help you develop effective strategies and support you through the process.
To embark successfully upon any change, a readiness to move on from the initial "feel better" stage is essential. If you're considering coaching, ask yourself whether you are ready and committed to accepting support and challenge to find your own solutions and put them into practice. If you sense that you are seeking a coach to fix things or do your thinking for you, coaching is probably not right for you at this time.
Find out if you're ready for coaching with my short assessment: Are You Ready For Coaching?
No one will ever care more about your career [or life] than you should do.
This is from one of my career management programmes. It is designed to remind people of the potential problems that arise when we take our eye off the career ball and allow the priorities of others to take over. Problems such as stress, redundancy or the growing realisation that you hate your job/manager/commute, etc.
If we’re honest most of us probably think that these potential problems don’t or won’t apply to us as we’re in tune with our desires and clued-in about managing our careers. But are we really? This topic comes up in my work again and again and causes real, painful difficulty for so many. Problems such as these faced by three real current clients*:
Regardless how great your manager may be, and how wonderful the company is, there will always be a tension between their needs and yours. Ideally we aim to keep thereasonable needs of both in balance. It is likely that your employer is fairly good at having their needs met. But how good are you at having your needs met? Do you even know what they are?
If you’re unsure, you may like to take some quiet time to reflect and ask yourself:
You can choose to take back control and ownership. Do not allow that focus, or dependency, to shift to your employer. Keep your needs and desires in mind.
What other great questions could you be asking?
If you’re like the average UK working adult, each month you spend approximately:
£50 at the hairdresser
£200 on clothes, shoes and accessories
£400 per month on leisure and recreation
…and possibly £60 on gym membership
So on average £710 on ‘personal maintenance’ and fun things. The bulk of your income is probably going on mortgage/rent, food, transport and other essentials like that. So taken as a proportion, the ‘fun’ expenditure is probably the smaller chunk of your earnings.
In comparison, how much do you invest in your career in the average month? By which I mean spending money on professional books, training courses and coaching in order to achieve success and fulfilment at work (and possibly also a bigger income)?
Here are 6 reasons why you shouldn’t spend a penny:
Of course, if those reasons don’t apply to you maybe you should re-examine those spending priorities and take control of your career direction and success.
A good professional skills book will probably set you back no more than £20 while a good private coaching programme will probably cost you less than half what you’re spending on entertainment a month. Like all good investments you’ll get out more than you put in.
Are you worth it?
A lot of my coaching work – especially around careers – is focused on helping people define and change their future direction. Very often this involves lots of assessment activity around preferences, attributes, strengths and values, and creativity exercises to begin creating that exciting future. But what if you already know how you want your future to be and are struggling with making that happen? Maybe you can’t get to action or overcome all the hurdles you see in your way.
If this is you, you probably don’t need me to tell you that unless you change what you are doing nothing is going to change. In fact you’re probably already frustrated at being unable to move forward despite knowing all that typical coaching stuff. This is what I call the Monday Morning Question – having visions and clear goals are all very well, but if you are not equipped to bring it all down to the practical level and know what you will do differently on Monday morning, you won’t move forward.
For many of us, getting stuck in this way happens because we have missed a step between the big picture, future focus, and the small detail, action step. Without that step the gap is too large to navigate. The Monday morning question says “specifically, what will I do differently right now?”
It can be helpful once you have defined the change you are looking to make to break that down further into interim stages. You might adopt a kind of gap analysis approach, for example:
Let’s imagine you think about your performance at work and maybe get some feedback which suggests that you don’t speak up enough or make enough of an impact (A). You decide that you want to change that so that in future, feedback suggests that you clearly and assertively express your views (C).
To make that happen you need to DO something – in fact you need to do a number of things. Firstly you need to understand what your current behaviour is that is creating A – ask yourself, what am I currently doing and not doing? Feedback may help you to do that, as may your own self-knowledge.
Next you need to identify the changes you need to make. You might use a simpleStop Start Continue approach to identify this (i.e. what behaviours should I stop doing, what should I start doing and what should I continue doing?).
Note that we are still up in the thinking cloud at this stage – it’s all good stuff but none of this is action, we have more steps to go.
Now you can move on to defining the specific actions you will take on Monday morning. In this example, let’s imagine that you have decided to contribute more in meetings. That might translate into a specific action to “Make at least two valuable comments at each weekly management meeting”.
Analysing this further you can then see that there are at least two prior steps to add into your action plan – to define what ‘valuable’ means, and to prepare. You can then add a necessary, preceding action, “Prior to each weekly management meeting prepare two questions/contributions/comments I will make that will add value to the meeting”. You now have a couple of actions that are ‘do-able’.
Once you have a list of specific actions you will take, they should be detailed and specific enough to enable you to be perfectly clear as to exactly what you will do and when you will do it. A useful self-coaching question you might ask yourself at this stage is “What might get in the way of me doing this?”.
Recognising and addressing obstacles is a key activity in making change and will often lead to further actions that need to be done first. Obstacles to your progress may be external (e.g. workload or logistics) or internal (e.g. lack of motivation or confidence) . Either may require additional support to overcome, but the principle remains the same: Identify the outcome you are seeking, define what needs to change, and then think about and plan how you will do that. You are then ready to DO IT – and that will be the subject of a later post!
Look forward to Monday mornings!
If I could look into the future and tell you confidently that in ten years from now your life would be the same as it is now, would you be happy about it? Specifically, if I told you that you’d be in the same career, perhaps the same job, as you are now, does that fill you with satisfaction or horror?
For most of us, by the time we are in our thirties our careers are reasonably well set. Not necessarily as successful as you hoped but such that you identify as being a software engineer, a teacher, a GP, a town planner, or whatever. You are also by that age more likely to be reasonably settled at home too. You might have a mortgage, a partner, children and so on. All of these things can cause you to take your eye off the career satisfaction theme. Until, that is, there comes a day when, for whatever reason, you realise that your career no longer (or has never) given you the satisfaction you would like.
When I work with clients who find themselves in this situation they will often express their frustration about the time they have wasted in the wrong career. Their experiences have made me very aware that to effectively manage our careers – no matter what else is going on in our lives – we should periodically ‘check in’ with ourselves and ask 4 key questions:
1. Am I happy/fulfilled in this job/career?
2. Am I still getting the enjoyment and progress from my career that I initially desired?
3. Do I have a direction in mind and in prospect that keeps me motivated and keen?
4. Do I have a sense that I would like to be doing something else?
How would you answer these questions?
When I am working with clients on career direction I am sometimes reminded of a client from many years ago who came to see me having been in a particular career for over twenty years. At that time in his mid-forties he told me that he had neverbeen happy in his job. It had supported him, paid off his mortgage and provided for nice holidays but looking back he felt he had nothing of a non-material nature to show for the time. What he really valued was a sense of achievement, of having done something meaningful: something of which he could be proud. He was dejected and sad when he told me that he couldn’t honestly say he’d achieved that.
It is never too late to take stock, assess your situation and career, and make changes. I have worked successfully with people into their sixties to help them achieve satisfying career changes; how much more rewarding it would have been for them to have taken control of the situation at an earlier time? As a professional coach I can help you to take stock, assess your career and, where appropriate, define a new direction. With ongoing support, confidence-building and encouragement I can also help you to develop and implement a plan with which to achieve it.
For further details about my Career Direction programme or working with me generally, do get in touch. Don’t wait for that career to knock on your door…