The Newsletter of Redpoint Coaching
Volume 6, No. 3, May 2007
You are reading ChangeAbility, a newsletter from Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, of Redpoint Business Coaching.
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1. The Four Myths of Feedback
Successful business owners and executives do not accept failure but transform problems into opportunities to learn and grow.
A key to this transformation is giving and receiving effective feedback. Giving effective feedback will help you and your people to learn, grow and change.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment where giving and receiving constructive feedback is the norm. Effective teams regularly exchange feedback between all members. Giving feedback should not be a once- or twice-a-year activity but rather a continual process.
Make sure to be well prepared when giving feedback: Keep a file for each employee with specific examples and prepare notes for the 'feedback meetings.' Practice giving feedback in role plays with your coach.
Read what Jamie Higgins, senior consultant at Monitor Company, a global consulting firm, and Diana Smith, partner of Action Design and Chair of Organizational Dynamics at Monitor University, have to say about the misconceptions that surround giving feedback:
“The Four Myths of Feedback”
Feedback is like exercise: we know it’s good for us, but we don’t do it often enough to reap the benefits. Why? When you’re on the receiving end of feedback, it can be hard to remain open and receptive. Giving feedback isn’t any easier. You may worry about making the other person defensive; you may fear damaging an important relationship. When it comes to feedback, who knows whether it’s better to give or to receive? Neither is a picnic.
The Four Myths
As consultants, we have worked with scores of executives, and we have found that the biggest obstacles to constructive feedback are some myths about feedback itself. When executives abandon these misconceptions, they find that feedback is both a lot less frightening and a lot more fruitful.
Myth 1: My reality is the reality, and my job is to get you to see it.
If I’m giving you feedback, I sit you down and tell you as clearly as I can what you’re doing wrong. I assume that my reality is the reality – and that I must somehow get you to see it, either by hammering home point after point or by softly repeating the same things over and over. But a funny thing happens along the way. You balk. You feel I’ve missed something. You believe you can’t do what I suggest given what you’re up against. I say one thing; you say another. I’m selling; you’re not buying. In the end you may salute, but the problem is apt to recur.
Astute executives don’t buy this myth. They realize that their view is always partial, and they’re more interested in getting it right than in being right. So they make a point of inquiring into the other person’s views.
Myth 2: Defensiveness is bad and should be avoided at all costs.
As soon as someone differs with your feedback or suggests you might be missing something, you probably think, “Oh, boy, here we go, he’s getting defensive.” Then you either back down and soften the blow, thus diluting the impact (and value) of the feedback, or you ramp up your efforts in hopes that your airtight logic will overcome any defenses.
What we have found, however, is that every action to avoid or overcome defenses triggers an equal and opposite reaction. The more you push, the more the feedback-receivers push back. And they’ll continue to push until what they hear takes into account the reality they see. So again: instead of discounting or trying to overcome their concerns, you might try asking more about the obstacles they face, and offer advice about how to tackle them.
Myth 3: This performance problem has nothing to do with me.
Most of us assume that the cause of whatever problems exist lies with the other person. But it isn’t always the case – and executives who recognize that they might be implicated make a point of asking questions specifically about their role. We heard one executive unhappy with the timing of a project ask her subordinate, “To what extent have I made it difficult to get the project done on time?” and, “Is there anything I could be doing differently?” She then listened for what she had to learn.
Myth 4: Mistakes are crimes to be covered up, punished, or both.
At some level, we all know this idea is wrongheaded. But if you look at how people in organizations actually behave, you’d think everyone had fallen for it. People fear that if their mistakes are uncovered they’ll be tried, found guilty, and sentenced. All too often they are, in fact, punished for their mistakes, and in turn punish others.
The best companies, however, make the most of mistakes. We happened to be visiting one firm when a mistake costing several million dollars came to the attention of the CEO. “That’s a significant mistake,” he told the VP who had made it, “and we sure don’t want it to happen again. I’d like you to identify the factors that led to the mistake and then design a system to prevent such errors in the future.” Instead of covering up the error or punishing the VP for it, these executives put the mistake to work to improve the performance of the whole firm.
If you can get past these four myths, pretty soon you and the person you’re giving feedback to will no longer be wrestling with each other. Instead, you’ll be working side by side on a common problem. After all, the whole point of feedback is to continually improve performance. That’s how you get to the Olympics. Now if we can only get to the gym.
From Dealing with Difficult People, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA, 2005.
Use the following tools to improve your delivery of feedback:
Many of the most successful business owners and executives I meet have never attended business school. They were busy building the business while you MBAs sat in class ;-).
Over the course of the next few ChangeAbilities, I will therefore explain popular but often misunderstood management concepts. This month I will continue with ‘Six Sigma.’
“Six Sigma,” is an approach to quality improvement. The Greek letter Sigma is used in mathematics to show standard deviation: the extent to which a series of numbers or readings deviates from its mean. One Sigma indicates a wide scattering of the numbers or readings. If the mean in this case is the required quality standard of a process or product, then One Sigma is pretty poor. As the readings approach perfection, the Sigma numbers increase. At Six Sigma, there are only 3.4 mistakes made per one million processes.
Developed from Joseph Juran’s statistical analyses of quality management, Six Sigma is a system by which companies can improve quality gradually. With the help of trained leaders known as “Black Belts,” firms ascend the Sigma ladder toward the ultimate goal of Six Sigma. Computer programs track progress, comparing a team’s goals (team-identified specs of a “perfect” product or process) with their actual achievements.
Six Sigma started at Motorola in the 80s, but the idea really caught the attention of the business community in the 90s when Jack Welch adopted it to improve quality at General Electric. In 2000, DuPont estimated that pre-tax benefits from Six Sigma projects was $700m.
This article based on Tim Hindle’s Guide to Management Ideas, London: Profile Books, 2003.
The 2007 ultracycling season is in full swing.
So far I have ridden two fast brevets:
300 km (190 miles) in 10 hours (30km/hr; 19 miles/hr)
400 km (250 miles) in 12 hours and 35 minutes (32 km/hr; 19.8 miles/hr)
Both these brevets I rode with my friend and cycling partner Chris Ragsdale.
Brevets are unsupported, timed rides and technically not races (although lots of people ride them as fast as possible). In Seattle they are organized by the Seattle International Randonneurs (www.seattlerandonneur.org).
Chris’s and my big goal for 2007 is to set a new course record at the 534-mile Race Across Oregon (http://www.raceacrossoregon.com/) in the team-of-two category. The current record stands at 28 hours and 58 minutes (18.5 miles/hr).
In September, I will also be competing in the Ring of Fire 24-hour race. My goal will be to improve last year’s mileage to above 400 miles.
In preparation for these two races, I have some big volume weeks planned in May and June and also will be riding a 600 km (375 mile) brevet in early June.
Once again, I am able to count on a fantastic crew for my races:
- Ken Barnes as crew chief
- Mike Lewis from Lewis Chiropractic Center (www.lewischiro.net) as medic
- Tamara Farley from Lakeside Massage as massage therapist
- My wife Catherine Parker as nutritionist
Velo Bike Shop on Capitol Hill (http://www.velobikeshop.com/) has been a fantastic support and has been very generous to me.
Thank you to all. I could not do it without you!
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ChangeAbility is a publication of Redpoint Business Coaching, which is run by Urs Koenig PhD, MBA.
Visit Redpoint's website: www.redpointcoaching.com or contact Urs at email@example.com or call: ++ 1 206 372 8626
Copyright Redpoint Business Coaching, 2007. All rights reserved
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