Hearing we Made a Difference

There isn’t anything like it.

Being told you changed someone’s life is the most amazing salve to the age-old question of “am I doing this right?”.  

This has already been a most amazing year. 2020 helped us all reset, reboot, reconnect with what matters most in our lives. For many, this was a reminder that our relationships with others are some of our most important needs. But not just personal relationships.

Our working relationships with clients, colleagues, our direct reports, and our own leaders have become magnified. The thing about magnification is everything becomes more visible.  Both the things we loved and were working well and the things that weren’t working.

What’s working for you?  What’s no longer working for you?  How do you feel when you get started on Monday mornings now?  Do you think TGIM?  (Thank Goodness It’s Monday)

Like most of us, I’ve gone through a transformation in the last year.  This week marks the 1-year anniversary of when the world closed.  Remember that?  Everything shut down, conferences were canceled, appointments rescheduled, almost all face-to-face work was minimized where ever possible.  I remember a meme about how Austin canceled its “Austin City Limits” festival (a HUGE revenue stream for the city) in lieu of COVID while “meanwhile in Houston, people are getting ready for the BBQ at our Houston Rodeo”.  The Houston Rodeo was canceled the next week.

I spent most of last year hanging on, supporting clients where ever they needed to hang on, too.  I worked ON the business a lot more than IN it as time became more abundant.  And, it really clarified what was working for me and what wasn’t.  It may have been the most important year in my business to date (as we celebrate our 10 year anniversary this year!!  Whoohooo!)  In case you missed it, this is a great time to take stock of what you gained out of last year, too.  Here are some tips on how to do that.

How are you assessing whether you’re “doing this right” or what’s working vs. not working for you anymore?  How do you measure the impact you’re having?  How do you assess what you want to start, stop, or continue?

One of the easiest ways to understand our impact is to actively solicit feedback. 

Yet, this is often where leaders fall short.  We never ASK FOR IT! Think about it.  We so rarely feel we’re giving and receiving enough valuable feedback. When was the last time you actively solicited feedback from your clients, colleagues, direct reports, or your own leaders?  You may say, I ask them all the time if they think I could do anything better or to share what could help.  Most of the time, those asks are at the end of a long meeting or kind of snuck into the close of a conversation.  That lessens the meaning for both us and the person we’ve requested feedback from.

Dr. Linda Babcock authored “Ask For It – how women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want”.  She is a former James M. Walton Professor of Economics and the former Acting Dean of the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.  While much of her book and research is on gender differences, the principle of having the courage to ASK FOR IT MORE than we already are applies to both genders

“If you aren’t hearing no, you aren’t asking enough.”

— Dr. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Feedback Tools

Two easy tools we use to gather feedback are below.

Tool #1: WWW and EBI – easy to remember, and easy to answer when you don’t have time to plan out everything you want to say.  WWW = What Worked Well and EBI = Even Better If…  I use these two all the time when facilitating and coaching.  It keeps the feedback easy, but more importantly regular!

Tool #2: SBID – The Center for Creative Leadership originally coined the “SBI” method for feedback.  S = Situation, B = Behavior, I = Impact to help leaders consider more effective feedback mechanisms for their teams.  Sometimes a D is added which indicates consideration of whether you want to ask/tell someone to Do something differently (or the same) based on the feedback you’re giving them.

Here’s an example of positive feedback using SBID…can you find the “S”, “B”, “I”, and “D”?

“Hi Bob, do you have a minute?  Great, I wanted to let you know that I saw the way you showed Veronica how much you care yesterday when we were in the staff meeting by giving her time to share her thoughts and not try to solve anything. You were just present with her when she aired her frustrations. I can really appreciate that because I’ve had too many people try to solve things in my life when I express frustration or confusion (that didn’t need to be solved, let alone by them). It made me think it wasn’t ok for me to be frustrated or confused, which just isn’t true.  Please keep doing that, and let me know how you’d like me to support you in the future!”

In case you missed it, the S = “yesterday when we were in the staff meeting when Veronica aired her frustrations.” The B = “you gave her time to share her thoughts and not try to solve anything, you were just present with her.” The I (which is the most important part of the feedback and the piece most of us leave out) = “you showed Veronica how much you care” and “I can really appreciate that because I’ve had too many people try to solve things, which made me think it wasn’t ok for me to be frustrated or confused.”  The D = Please keep doing that, and let me know how you’d like me to support you in the future.”

Here’s an example of constructive feedback (sometimes considered negative feedback…but it’s not really negative, it is meant to be helpful, hence the term “constructive feedback” is born. Check yourself if you really aren’t trying to be helpful with your feedback!

“Hi Bob, do you have a minute? (consider the setting that will maximize Bob hearing your feedback. Maybe you want to give Bob privacy when you share this, maybe you want to be at his desk versus yours, maybe it’s better face-to-face, and/or maybe it should be a scheduled meeting??) 

“Great, I need to let you know that I’ve noticed you coming to our weekly staff meeting late the last 3 weeks.  While it’s not a lot late (only about 10 min), what I’m seeing happen is the rest of the team is waiting to get started which cuts into our meeting time as a whole. And when you come in, I think you may feel flustered, so you’re still not really present with us for another 5 min or so.  The reason this matters so much is that you’re a very important team member and we value your opinions. Is everything okay? Do you need anything from us to get to the meetings when they start?”

In case you missed it, the S = “our weekly staff meeting the last 3 weeks.” The B = “I’ve noticed you coming late the last 3 weeks” and “when you come in, I think you may feel flustered, so you’re still not really present with us for another 5 min or so” AND “the rest of the team is  waiting to get started which cuts into our meeting time as a whole.”  (That last part is tricky, but it’s still relevant behavior based on the situation.  We’re not asking Bob to change the behavior of his team members, just himself.)  The I = “the reason this matters so much is that you’re a very important team member and we value your opinions.”  The D = “is everything okay?” and “Do you need anything from us to get to the meetings when they start?”  If this is the 2nd or 3rd time we’ve had the same conversation with Bob and you’ve done as much as you can as his leader to understand his needs in balance with the rest of the team and business goals, the D might change to something with much more clarity such as “I need you to get to these meetings on time going forward. What questions do you have?

In showing our own vulnerability by asking for feedback we are able to receive the amazing gift of knowing how we’re doing through the eyes of others and where we have opportunities for growth. Asking for people’s opinions helps them understand we value them, trust them, and are interested in connecting with them.

“Not too many people can say they’ve changed someone’s life – but I can tell you that you’ve changed mine, and many others. The best gift ever has been you.”

~ Senior leader at a Fortune 100 company managing one of the world’s largest facilities after executive coaching with New Horizon Strategies

Ready to create more feedback in your culture? Not sure what’s preventing everyone from doing this already?  Interested in additional tips?  We’re here for you.

Please schedule a time to check in with us whenever you are ready.

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