Have you heard yourself, or other leaders, saying “I was just being me,” or “this is my style” at work? Sounds like authenticity, right? However, it can also be a warning sign of TMA, Too Much Authenticity.
Professor Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015), describes the Authenticity Paradox in the January-February 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review.* She highlights two situations that all leaders face and how holding too firm to a self-image can derail success.
Moving into a new role.
Leaders face very different challenges as they move up the leadership pipeline. The scope of issues increase, the risks and rewards are greater and performance expectations change. What worked in the past may not work as well in the new situation. Leaders can stymie the growth and flexibility needed to succeed in their new roles if they don’t try out new responses and behaviors, even if they feel different than “who I am.”
Hearing and processing negative feedback.
Successful leaders often struggle to correctly interpret negative feedback. Not only is it hard to hear it can easily be misinterpreted as a style comment. Focusing on how well a style worked in the past can cause us to dismiss valid feedback or resist trying out new behaviors. New behaviors that may be different than “my view of myself” but important to success and growth.
What to do?
Authentic leadership and being true to yourself requires us to both know who we are and to be willing to revise who we are over time. Too much authenticity can be a code for an unwillingness to try out new behaviors. Ibarra suggests that we adopt a “playful frame of mind.” Actively try new ways of doing something, ask questions differently, work on new projects and explore what you learn about yourself. Stay true to your core values but purposely challenge your view of yourself with unfamiliar action and embrace what you learn.
*Jan-Feb 2015 HBR article
Posted in change and transition, integrity, leadership development, leading authentically, self awareness
Tagged asking questions, blind spots, feedback, integrity, Leadership, leadership journey, paradox, self reflection, self-awareness, values
High performing teams sound different than other teams. They are noisier!
The Harvard Business Review in June reminded leaders that providing feedback to your team is truly a shared responsibility. Taking actions to facilitate team-directed and team-provided feedback can help keep your team on track and lead to new levels of performance.
I worked with an oncology practice team that consistently received the highest levels of patient satisfaction across a large care delivery system. When asked what helped them provide such high levels of care they focused on the daily “huddle” they held. Once a day the entire team gathered together and shared feedback with each other on what was working well that day, what unique issues were coming up and what ideas each of them had to improve care. They all spoke; the front-desk receptionist, the rooming nurse, the physician, the manager, the chemotherapy tech, and the radiology tech. Each one was allowed and expected to give feedback to the rest of the team from their own perspective.
Rebecca Knight, the HBR author mentioned above, encourages leaders to follow these principles to build a culture that supports team members providing feedback to each other:
- Establish the expectation of group feedback and accountability and define it as a team.
- Schedule and hold regular “check-in” meetings – like the huddles
- Start with general, easy to answer questions.
- Role-model listening to feedback.
- Moderate and facilitate to allow everyone to share.
- Don’t avoid negative feedback or “issues.”
Helping your team members give and receive feedback from each other leverages the insights each person has and also creates a shared leadership accountability to high levels of performance.
Yesterday, I was reviewing survey feedback about staffing services delivery for our colleges and universities. Part of the survey focused on some process changes that had been implemented last year. The question asked key stakeholders to provide feedback about their:
- level of understanding of the new process steps
- degree of satisfaction with the new process
The survey also assessed what improvements had resulted from the process change, such as reduced turnaround time. While digging into the quantitative data and the qualitative feedback stakeholders gave, it reminded me of a simple truism: feedback is a gift.
People who responded to the survey with specific examples of what was working well and what was not, gave us a gift of their time, experience, and perspective. Often when we review feedback that is not particularly positive, it is easy to deflect it, explain it away, or become offended. The challenge is to remain open and embrace feedback as a way to improve any change effort.
Specific feedback, whether gathered through surveys, focus groups, or targeted one-on-one interviews, can help us not only better evaluate the change efforts we implement, but can give us the tools we need to craft future improvements. I’m looking forward to using what we’ve learned from the survey feedback to improve service delivery.
Is there a change effort that you are working on that would benefit from feedback?
It is over 90 degrees and humid in Minnesota this week. When you step outside it is important to stay focused on your goal and minimize wasted effort, otherwise the oppressive heat can overwhelm you. The same thing can happen when coaching the poor performance of a member of your team. You feel the heat of the upcoming interaction and avoid taking action or you get overwhelmed and distracted while trying to coach. Either way, you end up drained and the oppressive issue is still hovering “outside” waiting for you.
When you know you have to face the heat and take action I have found that a simple process that helps leaders stay focused and dive in. It’s called the Two Minute Challenge based on The Practical Coach training program. There are only five steps:
- State what you’ve observed – what happened.
- Wait for their response.
- Remind them of the desired behavior, expected performance or goal.
- Ask for their specific solutions.
- Agree on a solution.
No more, no less! The magic of having a short “script” keeps the coaching focused on the behavior and a solution. It is a roadmap that can provide confidence to start the conversation and the clarity needed to stay on track during the heat of the interaction.
A short time ago I received a call from a leader who told me that he had been dreading meeting with one of his team members. There was a performance issue and he was worried about how the person would react when he addressed it. After learning The Two Minute Challenge he decided to jot down the five steps on his note pad and have the meeting the next day. He stuck to his plan, followed the steps and the meeting did not spiral out of control. It wasn’t fun, but they stayed on track and came up with a realistic plan for improvement. He shared that the meeting ended up being less stressful than the anxiety he experienced worrying about it. He was also confident that the team member understood the importance of the issue and his responsibility for taking action. The five clear steps kept him from getting distracted and able to keep the focus on the employee’s behavior and accountability for improvement.
When you are facing the heat of needing to coach a poor performer take a cool two minute break, review the five steps and then dive in!
Posted in coaching, communication, higher education, Leadership, leadership competencies, leadership development, performance management
Tagged coaching, communication, feedback, higher education, Leadership, leadership development
I have worked with leaders for over 20 years and one constant I have heard over that time has been “my people don’t like getting feedback.” We all are very aware of how uncomfortable we feel when we need to tell someone that something they are doing is not working well. And we worry about embarrassing people by lavishing praise on them. Yet, as a leader, our feedback to our people is one of the most important things we can give them to help them succeed. Time and time again it has been proven that people need feedback, both internal self-feedback and external feedback from their leader. In fact, there are numerous books and long training programs devoted to providing feedback.
Today I just want to share a quick tip that I have used to help leaders, and myself, overcome reluctance to provide feedback in two ways. First, it focuses on the value of the feedback to the other person. Second, it makes it easier to just dive in and give timely feedback.
For positive feedback include:
- What – the person said or did. A short clear statement of the behavior, statement, project, task, activity or performance level. Stay focused on the behaviors.
- Why – why was the behavior, statement, project, task, activity or performance level valuable or significant to you, to the team, to a student, to the school, to the organization.
For corrective or negative feedback simply add one step:
- What – the person said or did. A short clear statement of the behavior, statement, project, task, activity or performance level. Stay focused on what did or did not happen, the behaviors.
- Why – what negative consequence did the behavior, statement, project, task, activity or performance level have on you, the team, a student, the school, or the organization.
- Suggested alternative – a brief recommended option and why it would have a different impact or outcome.
- Providing an option allows your team member to stay accountable for their own behavior by making a choice
- Briefly describing the different impact helps your team member stay focused on the outcome and not take the feedback as personal
That is all! Keeping feedback concise and relevant lets your people know how they are making a difference.
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. – Tao Te Ching
How do you truly know yourself and your impact on those you lead? In her last blog, Dee Anne talked about using various assessments to increase your self-awareness. I’ve found that seeking feedback from colleagues is also a powerful tool to increasing your leadership effectiveness and can provide a helpful complement to information you learn from assessments.
I often ask direct reports: “What can I do to support your success?” or colleagues, “What can I do to make sure our working relationship goes smoothly?” Or bosses, “How did that (meeting, presentation, fill in the blank) go and how can I improve?”
What I’ve learned as a result has been both helpful and humbling. Several years ago, I took an online 360 survey developed by Stephen M.R. Covey on how adept I am at building trust with others. You can find it at: http://whotrustsyou.com/
After asking several colleagues to take the survey and reviewing my results, I went to each colleague and thanked them for their feedback. I also asked for further feedback by saying, “I appreciate our working relationship and want to know how I can increase your trust and confidence in me.” One brave colleague shared that he appreciated working with me, but that he had heard that I had spoken negatively about his team’s performance in a meeting. It had hurt him. He said that he expected that I would discuss something like that with him before speaking with others. Ouch! That was hard to hear. It took me a few moments to breathe, gather my thoughts, and apologize. It also was helpful feedback that made me reflect and examine how I might be eroding trust with others. You can be sure that I worked hard to regain his trust.
When seeking feedback, I’ve learned to invite candid responses, listen attentively, do everything I can to reduce my natural defenses, and be open to seeing from another perspective. It’s not easy, and I think I’m still learning.
Seeking feedback can make you feel vulnerable and expose weaknesses you weren’t aware of; it can also affirm strengths that you have and give you signals about what you are doing that is working well.
What advice do you have for others when seeking feedback?