So, You Say You Want to Change…

Albert_Einstein_HeadSo, You Say You Want to Change…

Growth. Evolution. Change.

On some level, as human beings we all know that these are inevitable – and indeed necessary – to the human experience. We understand that in order to become all that we’re meant to become, in order to reach our full potential (whatever that might be) change is part of the equation.

Theoretically, we all talk about embracing change and we purport to do so in service of the vision we hold for ourselves.

Practically, however, most of us navigate change while kicking and screaming at best, or by being dragged forcibly through the process at worst.

Goodness, humans can be a strange breed in this way.

You see, there is a gap (obviously) between the theory of change and the practice of change. There is an essential process that is necessary to the experience of change, and it is this process that we collectively, move often than not, resist.

What’s the process? The process of “doing things differently”. In other words, even though we SAY that we want to change and grow and evolve – even though we claim to understand the merits of change and growth and evolution – what we DON’T want, is to actually DO anything differently. 4

How counter-productive is that?

Einstein said it best when he said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The fact of the matter is, if you truly want things to be different – if you want to experience change to any degree, then you’ve got to be willing to DO things differently. Period.

The challenge is that, while we might understand this intellectually, we are creatures of habit. We really do get used to doing things a certain way and so, even though we want different results, we resist changing our patters in order to achieve those results.

Talk about making things difficult for yourself!

So, how can you navigate change with more grace? How can you do what needs to be done, to experience the change (whatever it is) that you want?

  • Get clear on WHY you want to experience change in the first place. Understanding your rationale for having things be different can go a long way to helping facilitate change, when your habits run up against your desire.
  • Enlist the support of others in your process. Have conversations about what you’re striving for and how you’re planning on achieving your stated outcome.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for “slip ups” – but don’t allow yourself to keep slipping up, either.
  • Give yourself time; change always takes time.
  • Keep track of progress; notice subtle shifts and corresponding outcomes.
  • Celebrate small changes, as you make your way toward the bigger picture.

Bottom-line: if you truly want to grow – you’ve got to embrace change. And when you truly embrace change, it means that you’re committing to a new way of being, of doing, of showing up. Lean into the newness; embrace it, don’t resist. And allow yourself to experience the joy of becoming something more than you are right now.

policy and proceduresThe Problem with Policies and Procedures

Years ago, I had a conversation with a colleague. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what the overarching topic was; so often, when she and I get together we chat about anything and everything. Many of the world’s problems are resolved when she and I sit in this co-creative space! At any rate, there was a specific moment when she said to me, “if you look at an organization’s policies and procedures, you’ll see the scar tissue of conversations that never happened.”


That was my reaction, and I still feel in awe of that statement. As a coach and facilitator who regularly works with and within organizations, I’ve seen the truth of this over and over again. A situation arises – a problem of sorts. Usually it’s fairly specific. Sometimes it’s a repeat scenario, and sometimes not. In either case, rather than address the scenario specifically – rather than having a conversation with the individual or individuals involved – a policy gets created.  Moreover, if the policy-makers are honest, the policy is created in the hopes that those involved will simply understand the concern, and nobody will actually have to speak of it. No reprimand will be necessary. No conversation will be required.

This approach is counter-productive.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for policies of all sorts. The issue I’m wanting to shine the light on, is what happens before the policy gets created.

Too often, there is a gap between inciting event, and policy creation. What needs to be in that gap is a conversation. It could be a one-on-one conversation with a specific individual, or a more widespread conversation with a team or teams. Without that conversation, the policy has very little context, and there’s all sorts of room for misinterpretation.

So, what gets in the way of these conversations? That ever-pesky fear of conflict. Well folks, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: get over it. Seriously. Stop thinking of conflict as this big, bad monster to be avoided at all costs. Instead, when a difficult scenario arises, reframe the “conflict” as a “conversation”. The energy of conversation, even if it’s a heated one with a difference of opinion, can be super-productive. It clears the air. It removes any cause for speculation and second-guessing. Conversation serves organizations very well.

Now, here’s the unexpected bonus: the more pre-policy conversations you have, the fewer hard-and-fast policies are necessary in the long run. There may be some policies that get documented for the sake of providing a working framework, but not every issue will require a policy. Instead, open conversation will serve to keep the company/organization/group moving forward successfully.

Bottom-line: when sticky situations arise in the workplace, defaulting to policy-creation isn’t your best option. Instead, conversations need to happen, sooner rather than later. It may be that a policy arises out of said conversation. But if you create a policy without a conversation, rest assured, any resolution you experience will be temporary at best. A conversation, however, will lead to a lasting solution.

The Link Between Feedback and Success

In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to write a bit about feedback. I’ve talked about how to give it, and how to receive it. I’ve covered why it matters and how it can support your growth and evolution.

What I haven’t talked about, is the ONE ESSENTIAL QUALITY that you must have when receiving feedback. Before I tell you what that quality is, let me tell you why it’s essential

As I’ve shared in a previous post, the purpose of feedback is to facilitate growth. Growth can look a lot of ways, but in a nutshell it’s always about becoming MORE. It’s about expanding your capacity and stretching into the biggest, best version of yourself, whatever that is.

As a leader of any sort – manager, business owner, CEO, administrator, parent – it is essential that you understand this. That being said, this knowledge isn’t sufficient in to ensure that the feedback does, in fact, facilitate growth. There is a particular quality that you must have when fielding feedback. The quality in question is that of CURIOUSITY.

When you stand in curiousity, you yourself are expressing commitment to your growth. Curiousity allows you to understand – fully – what is being said to you, and why. When you are curious in the face of feedback, you can discern whether someone is simply venting, or whether they are pointing you in a particular direction. You can determine whether what is being shared is simply a singular point of view, or the wisdom of many.

So, what is it to be curious? Well, it’s about asking questions instead of making statements. It’s about seeking clarification and understanding. Curiousity is the essence of learning. Curiousity allows you to cut through the emotions at play – whether yours or the person providing feedback – and hear the nugget which will allow you to become what you are meant to become.

When you are curious, you can truly decide how you will let this feedback inform your decisions going forward. Curiousity creates a space of possibility, and in this space, you can determine for yourself what is true, what aligns with your intention, and (perhaps more importantly) how you will respond.

Bottom-line: while feedback is an essential part of the growth and evolution experience, knowing how to receive feedback is vital. In order to receive feedback effectively, the key lies in getting curious. Get curious about what is being said to you, and you can respond in a way that truly serves.


What’s Your Response Buffer?

Human interactions can be fun to watch. Whether I’m talking witnessing myself in relation to others, or paying attention to others outside of myself, when I heighten my awareness of human relationships, it affords me the opportunity to line up whatever theoretical learning I might be soaking up in the moment, with real-life situations.  One of the concepts that has been bubbling to the surface for me is that of “response buffers.”

Response buffers are those blocks of time between questions and answers, between requests and responses, between action and reaction.  In the context of human relationships, I notice that people feel the need to respond to a request, a question, a situation, or an interaction IMMEDIATELY.

I’ve seen it and experienced it over and over again; someone makes a request or asks a question, and you barely allow yourself time to receive the information before responding.  Something happens and you jump into action before the event has even completely come to a stop.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  If not, perhaps a few examples would help.

  • You’re at work, and a coworker asks you to switch shifts with her. You agree without even checking your calendar, only to discover when you go home that you’ve got an appointment of your own on the day that you just agreed to work.
  • Your child comes home from school and asks if she can “please, please pretty please go with her friend (who happens to be leaving RIGHT NOW) to the park to play for an hour” and you agree; only after she’s left do you remember that she was to clean her room before doing anything after school today.
  • You’re at a meeting and giving a presentation; somebody raises a question to which you don’t have the answer, but since you don’t want to appear stupid, you make something up and hope to the high heavens that you’re at least on the right track.

In each of these cases, there’s a way that your “response buffer” is so small that you’re creating unnecessary angst in your life.  So, what’s the solution?  Increase your response buffer.

A short response buffer – characterized by the tendency to provide immediate responses to queries and situations – can get in the way of you making choices that actually serve the bigger picture of your life.  Such small buffers are often created out of a belief that you either don’t have time to think, or that you must have the answer now.

Both of these beliefs are fallacies to some degree; there are very few life situations in which you cannot afford yourself a buffer of at least 5 minutes.  Very few.  And, simultaneously, when you’re someone who works with a longer response buffer in the general scheme of things, then in a truly time-sensitive situation, your brain is actually capable of making a quick decision that is more solidly grounded, because you’re not overwhelmed overall, and can actually make sound choices.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  Can you relate?

Here’s what I want you to understand: the time that is available to you between request and response is rich, fertile ground in which your power to choose, to create, to really align with what matters to you is available in abundance.  When you act from constant urgency, you decrease this power of yours.  Why do that?  The power to choose is one of life’s greatest gifts.  The more you avail yourself of this particular gift, the richer your life is.

When it comes to response buffers, one of the structures that I’ve seen used in many organizations is the “24-hour rule.”  This rule basically states that no matter what the request, no matter what the circumstance, you will allow yourself 24 hours before you respond.  Here are 3 solid reasons for using this paradigm:

  1. It allows for any emotion to dissipate, ensuring a grounded response.
  2. It gives you time to consider the circumstance from all angles, perhaps realizing some facets that you would have otherwise overlooked.
  3. It gives the situation itself time to resolve on its own – sometimes a request or inquiry doesn’t actually need your response; the 24-hour rule allows this to become apparent.

Granted, there are some genuine, emergency, need-your-attention-now circumstances in the world that you cannot hold up to the 24-hour rule.  As I said earlier, however, these aren’t as many as you might think.  In light of this, there’s something to be said for lengthening your response buffer.

Bottom-line:  increasing the time between request and response can go a long way to decreasing the amount of stress, angst and overwhelm in your life.  If 24-hours feels too long, no worries; start with a smaller buffer.  But build a response-buffer nonetheless.   There really is very little that truly needs your immediate response.

love-what-u-do-steve-obsTalent Vs. Passion:  Which One Do You Choose?

In the world in which we live most everybody questions why they’re here on earth.  It’s an indicator of evolution as a human being. Barring the individuals who are outright lazy or feel no responsibility to the world at large, everyone wonders about their purpose in life to some degree.

Often, this questioning is linked to the whole “finding a career-path” experience.  For me, it’s time to bust some myths in this regard.  I want to lay waste to some common misconceptions that abound when it comes to

  1. a) figuring out your life purpose and
  2. b) determining what career path you’re meant to follow.

Often, emphasis is placed on finding a job, a career, or an employment opportunity that will meet your financial goals and obligations.  This makes sense to a certain degree; I mean everyone has bills to pay, things to buy, activities to pay for.  Having an income to allow for these expenses seems logical; and the place to get this income is from your job, right?  For the most part I would agree.

But here’s the thing:  the financial piece of the equation cannot be your only consideration.  Most people know this.  And so they look at the next logical question:  can I do this?  Do I have the skills?  Am I capable of this job?

This series of questions, just like the question of finances, seems to make sense.  Nobody’s going to pay you for something you can’t do, right?   Right.  Except for one little thing:  while you may not be able to do something right now, you very likely can learn to do it.  Most people, when they put their minds to it, can learn to do almost anything, within reason.

I make this point because one of the things I see over and over again is that there are plenty of people who are doing things they CAN do, and they still don’t feel fulfilled.  You might be one of these people.  You CAN do your job; in fact you may be absolutely brilliant at it.  And you still feel less than happy overall.  Why is that?

Well, here’s the critical question in terms of figuring out what you “should” (and you know how I feel about “shoulds”) be doing with your life:  do you LOVE it?  You see, if you line this question up with what I said in the previous paragraph – the fact that most people can LEARN to do anything – what you’ll quickly realize is that while you may not know HOW to do something right now, if you love it and you allow yourself time to learn how to do it well, then you’re actually on the path to fulfilling your purpose.

When it comes to career and life purpose, the mistake that so many people make is this:  you tell yourself some cockamamie story that says if you’re good at a particular thing, then that must be what you’re meant to do with your life.  What I want you to realize is that this isn’t necessarily so.  The thing that you’re good at isn’t necessarily what you’re meant to do, or the purpose that you’re meant to fulfill.  You might be great at math, but that doesn’t mean you’re meant to be an accountant.  You might be great at healing social trauma, but that doesn’t mean that your purpose is necessarily found in the land of social justice.  Instead the key indicator is always what I call the LOVE FACTOR.  When you love something, when your heart is completely, 100% into a particular project or task, when you can connect with your bliss – that is what you are meant to do.

Let me make one thing clear, and this is critical.  Your life purpose may not be found in your income-generating job.  In other words, you may earn an income using a particular skill-set, but you may fulfill your purpose through another avenue.  This is yet another misconception about life purpose:  that somehow your life purpose has to be lived out through your professional career.  Once you understand that life purpose and career aren’t necessarily one and the same (although they could be) and you understand that your purpose is to be found in the realm of “things you love to do” then you can truly decide which path to follow; you can decide what to do.

It is important to note that just because you love something, doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. The fact that you love it, however, will allow you to navigate those challenges with a greater sense of ease than if you’re working away at something that holds less allure for you.

Bottom-line:  when it comes to finding and fulfilling your life purpose, focus on the things you LOVE to do.  You’ll recognize these things by the contentment you feel, the bliss you experience, the way you come alive.  If you can align this with your professional career, great; this will definitely allow you the optimal fulfillment experience.  But if you can’t, remember that so long as you can find an avenue to do and experience that thing you love, you will have found your purpose and you will find meaning in your life.

apologyI’m Sorry, But… 

Over the years I, like you and every other person on the planet, have had the opportunity to be on both the giving and receiving end of apology exchanges.  In western society in particular, apologies are fairly regular occurrences:  apologies for bumping into someone, apologies for misspeaking or interrupting, apologies for being late, apologies for being early – you name it, depending on your perspective, you can probably find a reason to apologize.  Personally, I think that apologies are often over-used, thereby diminishing the power and sincerity that’s necessary to make the apology meaningful.

All that being said, however, the thing that I’m most curious about – the thing that I’ve been curious about for a very long time now – is how we as individuals receive apologies.  Think about it.  What’s the usual response you give when someone apologizes to you for something?  If you’re honest, I’m willing to bet that you generally say some version of “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry about it” if you’re desiring to be gracious; or if you’re really ticked off or hurt, you may respond with some version of “Yeah, okay” or “whatever”.  Anyway you slice it, these responses are inadequate.  They don’t actually align with the purpose of an apology – which is for people to take responsibility for their actions.

Confused? Well, let’s backtrack for a moment and consider the impetus for an apology, before I clarify how I believe one can respond more effectively.

Apologies are generally given when an individual has either done or said something wrong, something that hurts another, or something that in some way had him or her fall short of expectations.  Whether it is being late for an appointment, making a snide comment at someone’s expense, or physically injuring another, an apology is an individual’s attempt to

  1. a) acknowledge their mistake or take responsibility, and
  2. b) make amends before moving on.

So, when you hear an apology being given and you respond with a phrase similar to “that’s okay”, how does this align with the person taking ownership of their mistake?  Imagine that your child has hit a playmate while at the playground.  Knowing that she shouldn’t have done that, she apologizes to her friend, and then hears, “Oh, that’s okay.”  What’s the message?  The child knows – because she’s been taught – that hitting someone else is hurtful.  And yet, her apology is being met with “that’s okay.”  Really?  Is it okay?  I don’t think so.  Such a response certainly doesn’t allow the apologizer to acknowledge her mistake and take responsibility.  It lets her off the hook instead, which is a mixed message at the very least.

Similarly, had the injured party in the above scenario responded to the apologizer with a statement such as “Yeah, okay” or “Whatever”, there’s an implication that the apology is not being accepted.  In other words, it doesn’t matter that the first child wants to make amends; the injured child won’t allow it.  That’s the energetic subtext.  Can you see what I’m talking about?  Can you relate to times when you have experienced this disconnect, either as the giver of an apology or as a receiver?

If these typical responses aren’t in alignment with the intention of an apology, how else can you respond?  Well, there is a really simple response that better aligns with the purpose of an apology.  Simply put, the response that’s required is nothing more and nothing less than “thank you.”  When someone apologizes, and you say “Thank you” the message is simple:  “I accept that you feel badly, I appreciate that you’re trying to make this right.”  And that’s it.  You don’t need to absolve the person of their wrong-doing, you don’t need to make them feel better and you certainly don’t need to make them feel worse.  You just need to meet them where they’re at.  Why?  Because it keeps the interaction clean, clear and honest.  It allows both of you to move past the experience with grace, without any sense of how moving forward might look.  That’s a whole different conversation.  And that, after all, is the point of the apology.

Admittedly, there are additional factors to consider when it comes to apologizing.  For example, someone who repeatedly apologizes but never changes the associated action calls into question the sincerity of the apology.  I mean, it’s not enough to accept responsibility for your behaviour if you’re not going to change that same behavior.  The apology becomes meaningless.  And as a result, it’s challenging to express gratitude for that sort of an apology.  So, when you’re giving an apology for the same scenario over and over again, as the giver of said apology it really behooves you to ask:  what are you apologizing for?  And what are you actually willing to change?

Bottom-line:  apologies are not meant to be taken lightly.  They are not to be given lightly, and they are not to be dismissed readily.  Instead, thought must be given both by the giver and receiver of an apology.  As the giver, know why you’re apologizing and do so with sincerity and commitment to not have to deliver the same apology again.  And when receiving an apology, remember that your job is to do so with grace; express gratitude without either minimizing the hurt or making it bigger than it need be.  An effective apology is about both the giver and the receiver.  Give with sincerity, receive with grace.  This is the way to make apologies work.

vacationWhat Do You Expect of Your Vacation?

“I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.” If you’re like most people I know, I’d hazard a guess that you’ve either said these words or heard them said by others, MANY times. You go away on vacation to rest, to get away – and perhaps to take in some different sights and experiences – and end up coming back to your regular life exhausted, depleted and not at all rested. What is that about?

At its very core, a vacation is intended to serve two purposes: first, to rejuvenate and replenish your spirit, often by experiencing a change of pace and scenery; second, to allow you the opportunity to learn a bit about a different culture or environment, depending on the type of vacation you take.

When you plan for a vacation what does your planning focus on? What are the things you research or build into your itinerary, in order to make your vacation worthwhile? Having talked to many people about this, and witnessed many clients, colleagues, friends and family engage in the “vacation planning” process, what I know for sure is that you spend a lot of your time planning excursions, tours, visits to historic sites or relatives (sometimes one and the same). Your planning incorporates a lot of “things to do.” Your planning does not allow for much time to just “be” which is why you come back from vacation more exhausted than when you left.

Now, here’s the kicker. If I were to ask you at the outset of your vacation planning, what you hope to get from your time away – or your time off – I know that I’d hear some version of “I just need a break” or “I just need some time to veg out.” So my question is this: if your primary objective is rest and rejuvenation, why do you plan so much “busy” time? Why don’t you plan more days of just sitting poolside, or on the beach, or on the wrap-around-porch, with your eyes closed and soaking up the sun? Why do you try to DO so much on your vacation?

One of the pitfalls of our society is the compulsion we’ve all got to constantly be “doing” something. The danger with this way of thinking is that we forget that our bodies, minds and spirits actually need time to rest between times of “doing.” We forget to spend time “being.” And so, our vacations end up being filled with more things to do, rather than giving us any time to just be. Can you see the fundamental mistake in this?

If you really do want to do things on your vacation, by all means, go ahead and do them. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you miss out on the opportunity to check out the Great Wall of China, or to explore the Mayan Riviera. What I am asking you to do is get clear on what your goal is for your vacation. And if getting a modicum of rest is a part of the expectation then make sure you build rest time in to your itinerary. Your vacation cannot replenish you if you don’t factor replenishing into the equation.

Bottom-line: get clear and get real about your vacation expectations.   Once you’re clear, plan accordingly. Make your plans align with your expectations, so that when you get back from vacation, you can talk about how much you got what you set out to get, rather than about how much more you need.

arms-wide-open-copyFeedback: Are You Open to Receive?

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Leadership and feedback go hand-in-hand. Knowing that those who give feedback are often loathe to do so – fearing being misunderstood or disliked – last week I offered some tips for making the process simpler and, perhaps, more palatable all around.

Having addressed that side of the feedback fence, this week, I want to share some thoughts on how to RECEIVE feedback. Why? Because rest assured, if you don’t know how to receive feedback, you’re missing out on some great growth opportunities.

First and foremost, there’s a feedback myth that needs to be put to rest: feedback is not a euphemism for put-downs. While some may use feedback in this manner, that is not its intention; hopefully, you’ve read last week’s article and understand that feedback is intended – even when it is delivered in a less-than-slick manner – to facilitate growth, evolution and change

When you are on the receiving end of feedback, it is imperative to remember this fact. Given that the purpose of feedback is to help facilitate your growth, getting your back up and resisting feedback does nothing other than keep you small and stuck.

In recent years, there has been a push to frame feedback positively. In and of itself this is not a problem. The challenge is that “positively framed feedback” is too often misinterpreted to mean “praise and only praise” – which means that we are forgetting the power of criticism. It’s important for all of us to understand that criticism has an important role in our growth and learning. As the one on the receiving end of criticism – even if said criticism is harshly given – you have a responsibility to stay open to hear what is being said. In other words, rather than shrinking in the face of criticism, it is your responsibility to shrug off any barbed comments, and glean the learning nugget for your own benefit.

I know, sometimes this is all easier said than done. So, let me help you out with strategies to make the receiving of feedback – even that of the critical variety –a little bit simpler:

  1. Approach all feedback from a space of curiousity. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? Even if the giver of said feedback is less than eloquent, keep your eyes on the learning nuggets contained in the exchange and let curiousity guide you.
  2. Pay attention to your physicality. Stand (or sit) tall, and in an open posture. Closed arms, closed eyes, or hunched shoulders close you off to receiving anything.
  3. Focus on the person in front of you – the person giving the feedback. If you feel yourself drifting away, or crafting snarky responses, stop yourself and bring your attention back to what is being said.
  4. Employ a mental filter, similar to a pasta strainer. Allow yourself to “catch and hold” the learning nuggets, and let go of anything that taints the learning (e.g., sarcastic tones, harsh language, accusations, etc;).
  5. Hold the intention to learn and grow. Allow this intention to supersede any perception you may have about what the other person might mean in their feedback. In other words, while you may feel like the giver of feedback is trying to hurt you, allow your personal commitment to growth to override that feeling.

Bottom-line: feedback is a powerful tool for growth and learning. And, to be most effective, both the giver and receiver of feedback need to be committed to the intention of feedback: namely, to facilitate growth and evolution. While none of us can control other people, when we each stand in our own solid commitment, we can ensure that feedback always serves its purpose in facilitating growth.

leader-feedbackLeadership and Feedback

Feedback. Whether it’s in the form of criticism or praise, effective leaders are required to give feedback regularly.

Feedback allows individuals to grow, to stretch, to learn, to evolve. Feedback is essential to progress and learning.

Most leaders – whether we’re talking about those who are parents, bosses, teachers, or any other leader-type – are very well aware of the importance of feedback, yet too few know how to give it effectively. So, with a view to helping you elevate your feedback proficiency, here are some tips (given in no particular order) to bear in mind:

  1. Remember, the purpose of feedback is to facilitate growth and evolution. It’s not about stopping behavior simply for the sake of stopping it. It’s about allowing space for something more. In other words, when you give feedback – even if it’s of the critical variety – frame it in a way that allows for growth. For example, using the parenting context as a model, “Johnny, leaving your clothes on the floor is unacceptable. Folding them and putting them in the drawers, or hanging them in the closet is.”
  2. Consider the audience. If your feedback is intended for children – and yes, leadership includes working with children – remember that their language proficiency requires you to speak at their level. If you’re being sarcastic, make sure that’s understood. If you’re feeling the need for harsh language, ask yourself whether it will elevate your specific audience or shame them. Elevation is what you’re aiming for, ultimately.
  3. Be clear about how your own emotions are interwoven with the feedback you’re about to give. Let’s take a competitive example, perhaps a sports-team. As a coach (leader) you have a rivalry with an opposing team. Erego, you want your team to do well (read as, do better than the other team). In this case, for whatever reason, your team doesn’t deliver as you’d hoped. Be sure that your feedback is, indeed, about the team’s mistakes, opportunities for growth, etc; rather than your own disappointment at losing face. This can be a tricky one, but keeping your own emotions out of the feedback is essential.
  4. Feedback intended for a single person needs to be delivered to that person – not hidden in a general reprimand to the group. Too often, because folks tell themselves that they are “uncomfortable with conflict” (or words to that effect) feedback is given in a broad context – or implemented as overarching policy – rather than given to the intended recipient. The result? The person that the feedback is intended for misses out on a specific learning opportunity and everyone else is left wondering why the policy has gone into effect.
  5. As a general rule of thumb, praise in public, criticize in private, to the degree that’s possible. Even when feedback is framed as a learning opportunity, it can feel demeaning when it is critical in nature, which in turn leads to shrinking, rather than growing or evolving.
  6. Check your own emotions at the door (this links back to item #3). When giving feedback of any sort, neutrality is important. If you as the deliverer of feedback are feeling extreme emotion – particularly anger, embarrassment, frustration – it’s important to neutralize those emotions as much as possible before sharing your feedback. This ensures that your message is delivered as clearly as possible and received in the intended spirit. Otherwise, your emotion is what gets received, not your message, which simply leads to resentment and misunderstanding.
  7. Consider your timing. When in doubt, allowing yourself some temporal distance can be a very helpful strategy, especially if emotions are running rampant. The 24-hour rule is an example of this. Giving yourself time – in this case, 24 hours – to process and be certain of your feedback can ensure that the feedback is accurate, yet unclouded by emotion.
  8. Remember that your feedback is nothing more or less than opinion – and present it as such. In other words, phrases such as “I feel” or “in my experience” or “Here’s what I’ve noticed” are actually helpful when giving feedback, because it doesn’t give the impression of indelible fact. It allows room for the recipient to choose how he or she will incorporate your feedback into his or her choices going forward.

Bottom-line: if you’re a leader of any sort, you’re going to have to give feedback. Knowing how to give feedback effectively is important. And understanding that the provision of feedback is about the facilitation of growth, will help you to deliver feedback meaningfully, no matter the scenario.

Business-leaders-groupLeadership and Human Nature

Recently, I had a colleague share a story of a leader who had crossed a boundary, behaving in a way that was less than exemplary. The leader’s justification? “I’m only human.”

Well, yes, it’s true. Leaders are human. And human nature can be a hard force to resist. The need to self-protect, to be right, to appear strong, to fulfill desires, to earn accolades – these are all common human tendencies and, depending on an individual’s attachment to any one of them, how these tendencies play out can be commendable…or not.

As a leader, no matter your human inclination, you have a responsibility to exemplify the BEST of human nature, and mitigate those human qualities that are less desirable. Did you catch the key phrase there? If not, let me say it again…YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY – not just an opportunity, but a responsibility to be the best human being you can. Certainly, it can be argued that every human being has this responsibility; from my perspective, leaders are particularly accountable to this way of being.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that leaders must be perfect. There’s no need for that, by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, certain human foibles are off-limits when you’re in a leadership role. In other words, while you are absolutely free to be human, as a leader you are not free to be immoral, or consciously behave in a way that you would condemn in others.

I’m deliberately staying away from specific examples, because my sense is that there are too many to name. But, if I were to itemize in general terms behaviours that are not acceptable in leaders, the list would include: lying, abuse of power, taking advantage of those who are vulnerable, and holding double-standards.

Are you allowed to make a mistake? You betcha. Are you allowed to make it more than once? No, and here’s why. To paraphrase something I read recently, when you do something once, it’s a mistake. When you do it twice, it’s a choice. Which means it’s no longer a mistake. And while leaders who make mistakes can be forgiven, leaders who make poor choices – repeatedly – lose respect in the eyes of those they serve.

Bottom-line: like it or not, leaders are held to a higher standard than you might like. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make errors in judgment; it absolutely means that you’ve got to be accountable for your choices and actions, in a way that’s perhaps more rigorous than the average person. Yes, leaders are human. And as a leader, your job is to be the best human you can be.

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