Creating a Culture of Coaching
There's often blurred lines when it comes to what coaching means in relation to managing. In the business world, the terms "coaching" and "managing" are often used synonymously. But that's not always the case.
Difference between Coaching and Managing
The prevailing management paradigm focuses heavily on managers as having power and roles over controlling the compliance of direct reports within job roles. Managing, without mentorship, can be interpreted as measuring performance around an often magically determined benchmark of standards. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on discovery. Coaches enable and empower people to contribute productively to team and organizational success without alienation.
Coaching as managing doesn't place mentorship as a subset of management, but rather the heart of it.
Coaching is often an 'approach' to management. This means worrying about how your direct reports carry out their jobs and roles, or more often than not, references being 'a manager'. However, not every manager is a coach.
Insight on what you can do to be a coach, not just a manager.
Coaches challenge others to develop skills and abilities on an aspirational level. They help their direct reports become self-sufficient. This means the individual being coached is able to pass the acquired knowledge onto the next person, transforming into a coach themselves. Coaches setup an environment of support where learning and working hard are at the heart of every interaction. They make managing about leading others to higher levels than they thought possible within a collaborative setting.
Coaching isn't just about evaluating performance, but guiding individuals to transition into high productivity with aspirational growth as a driver. A coach actively seeks out opportunities to care about others' personal development, challenging that individual to grow and outperform their best.
Approach coaching in two ways
- Coaching for performance enhancement - Ex: asking questions retroactive to a project to tease out answers from the individual on what they were trying to accomplish versus the perceived results achieved.
- Coaching for personal growth and development - Ex: How can I help? What don't you understand that I can help you understand? What support or resources can I provide to help you reach your goal?
In both instances, coaching involves the use of questions prompting the individual comes to their own conclusions rather than being told the 'correct answer' or path to take to find a solution. For example, after a project a good coach will ask many questions to assist with learning. A good coach might ask, what were you trying to accomplish? What were the actual results of what the project achieved? What caused the gap between what you wanted to achieve and results you achieved? Coaching can assist in building a conversation around the individual being coached understanding the gap between the expected result and the current outcome, from their own interpretation. A good coach can help a person think through what should be done next time to improve performance.
Now, how can you make sure you're coaching, not just managing?
- Give performance feedback at the right time. Immediately after a presentation isn't the best time to chat about performance enhancements. Processing by both parties must take place. It's important to take notes, but scheduling a time to review projects is better than ad-hoc, on the spot constructive criticism giving or questioning when it comes to the big things.
- Delegate ownership and facilitate learning. This means having faith that even if someone doesn't have 100% of the knowledge to take over something, doesn't mean they shouldn't be given a chance! Think back to the first time someone took a risk on you and how much more you learned from that process rather than just observing. Practice learning through doing.
- Motivate. Simple and straightforward - encourage growth!
- Teach in ways that promote self-sufficiency, rather than answering the problem. This can be tricky as it's easy to provide a solution, rather than think of probing questions to allow someone to draw their own. A good framework for this is
- Ask what they'd like to do less of. Often coaching is focused on positive momentum to improve upon something. Sometimes, coaching means recognizing that people do things they may not necessarily enjoy, but are mediocre or even good at. Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you want to. Nothing motivates people less than having a subpar attitude towards something.
- Ask them to tease out a project they are proud of. With this question comes a lot of further micro-questions such as 'why this one, not another one?' 'what was something you'd like to continue doing beyond this project into the next?' and so on. It's easy to pinpoint hard or soft skills one is good at (photoshop and being collaborative, respectively) but it's harder to ground that in concrete takeaways. This pushes a deeper connection on why they are proud and what they can take to the next level next time.
Everyday interactions can provide rich coaching opportunities. It is important during these times to transform these daily interactions into coaching moments while also balancing out that not every moment should be an on-the-spot coaching session. One way to tease out the difference between the two types of interactions is to determine whether something will require less than 5 minutes of feedback, or, if it's more complex and can be treated as a more formal feedback moment. For example, let’s say, next time the same employee gives a poor presentation. Most of us know when we are not at our best so immediate coaching could only serve to leave a sour taste of 'rubbing it in'. This increases the likelihood someone will be less receptive to constructive help. Instead, it is better to schedule coaching time. This way, everyone can reflect and prepare. This makes coaching a conversation, not a defense match.
What others have to say about Coaching.
- A great coach is a lot of things - but the best way to say it is that they’re not your best friend, they’re the business’ best friend - and that’s a partnership where everybody wins.
Finding the Balance Between Coaching and Managing - Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. Harvard Business Review [June, 2014]
Being directive versus being collaborative. Good managers give direction to the groups they manage, of course, and the willingness to exert leadership is often why they get promoted. But the most effective managers who are also effective coaches learn to be selective about giving direction. Rather than use their conversations as an opportunity to exert a strong influence, make recommendations, and provide unambiguous direction, they take a step back, and try to draw out the views of their talented, experienced staff.
Finding the Balance Between Coaching and Managing - Holly Green, Contributor. Forbes [May, 2012]
- Managing involves a more directive, task-oriented style that should only be used under certain conditions. It usually produces the best results in a crisis situation, when someone has never done the task before, or when they have little or no confidence in their ability to get it done.
- Coaching works best for developmental purposes, especially when you have a team of competent professionals already performing at a reasonably high level. Once you define winning for your organization, team members may need your guidance and support. But in most cases they shouldn’t need direction. Running effective 1-on-1s
Employee engagement, satisfaction, and happiness
Engagement and happiness are very different.
Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are working hard or productively. Perks such as free snacks, awesome benefits packages, or Friday night parties are awesome and beneficial for morale and team building, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're engaged in working hard outside fun. Mentoring employees and engaging them in aspirational career-oriented tasks help ensure they are not only happy, but engaged in their day-to-day objectives.
Satisfaction is mediocre - you shouldn't strive to get an answer from someone that their satisfied showing up daily 9-to-5. Encourage employees to go the extra effort and want to go one step further! Retention is important, so encourage stretch goal thinking where team members can self-assess and come up with innovative, creative ways to engage themselves while also growing their skills.
Engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its success.
Engaged employees actually care about their work and how their actions impact organizational success. Attitude transitions from working for a pay-cheque, or just for the next promotion, to working on behalf of the organization’s goals. This means that engagement is tied to discretionary effort. They'll work hard, over-time without being asked to get a job done awesome the first time. They'll do something even if their manager isn't pay attention, because they care. And they'll always put the success of the team ahead of personal gain.
WRITTEN BY: KENDRA MOROZ, MANAGER OF LEARNING AND SUPPORT
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions or if you believe something is missing, misrepresented, or outdated.
Conversations for engagement and motivation
Get Them Talking About Their Passions
Employees in your organization may have their passion and talent be one in the same, but this is not always the case. Many employees contribute their talent to work projects but they may be developing other skills outside of work. Find out what they’re working on, get curious. Knowing more about what interests your employees have outside of work is key to building a great relationship with them.
What happens if you chat with them and find out they may someday leave to start their own company? It may happen, but if they know you care about building and developing them into who they aspire to be through the work they do at your company, chances are they will stay longer because their personal vision becomes aligned with your company vision. A great practice we exercise at 7Geese is asking you to rate your happiness level (1-10) and why you gave yourself that rating. This allows the manager to dig deeper in the one-on-one as to what aspects of work or life their employee is defining as their happiness level.
Focus on Intrinsic Motivation
Traditional management leans towards compliance and rewards. While those methods may work in some cases, we need more focus on self-direction. A study was conducted by Dan Ariely, Uri Gneezy, George Loewenstein, and Nina Mazar on if pay based on performance (extrinsic motivator) would enhance performance compared to non-pay methods. What the study found was very interesting. External rewards and bonuses can improve performance with activities that require a focus in a very narrow and simple area (direct sales for example). Studies also showed thatincentivizing work for knowledge workers who require more cognitive skill for their roles lead to poorer performance as it inhibited their creativity and ability to think outside the box.
In his TED Talk, Daniel Pink mentions how there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. There needs to be a change in these traditional business models for extrinsic motivation, especially with the hungry millennials seeking more ownership in their roles. When you are having a 1:1 conversation with your employees, find out what drives them. What made so interested about the things they are pursuing? This is going to help you coach and support them since you will learn how they are wired. As a manager, know your employees have different visions for themselves – the better you learn what forces drive their vision, the better manager you can be for them.
Growth through Continuous Learning
Stay foolish, stay hungry. Grow or die. Quotes from Steve Jobs and Anthony Robbins showing their shared quest for learning. Employees should be challenged in their learning. Whatever skill set they entered your company with should be added on within the first few months. If your employees are bored and under stimulated, they will leave somewhere else with more growth opportunities. Your top talent are the most eager to grow, make sure great resources are in place to support them.
At Atlassian, a SaaS company in Australia, all the employees have one day in the quarter where the company stops and they can go work on whatever they want but they have to release whatever they create the same day. They call it: ShipIt Day. Employees work on many projects which they normally don’t have time for. This gives them the autonomy to control what they want to learn and how they want the project to move forward – all in one day. Google introduced a similar concept called 20 Percent Time, where employees could use 20% of their time to work on side projects. This gave birth to many Google products such as Gmail, Adsense, Google Maps and many more.
We all crave continuous learning in the work place. At 7Geese, we have different members of the team present topics that are relevant to our industry every week to expand our learning. It opens up doors to learn about new things and potential new work to embark. Start having conversations with your employees about what they are curious to learn to grow their career. The learning opportunity could be your next big feature or product.
In the past, keeping talent happy and engaged was put on the back burner for organizations. Today, companies who have employees leaving left and right because they are not happy are focusing on having more conversations to ensure employees are happy and engaged. Managers need to be proactive to listen to their employees, find what drives them and help them create opportunities that will give them sense of ownership to expand their learning. it’s not enough for your employees to be satisfied, they must be happy. Continuously check in with your employees and create a culture where people always come first.
MARS Model for Performance
Understanding Individual Performance
Organizations are constantly trying to figure out ways to improve performance to be more successful, most focus on improving individual performance. This is a rational focus given that for many businesses, payroll is the single largest expense. It’s natural to try and improve the whole by improving the parts, especially the most expensive parts.
An organization is very similar to a car. There are a lot of different subsystems and parts that work together to produce a desired outcome. If you want to build the greatest car in the world it will take more than just having the best parts. They have to fit and work together in perfect sync. But, if you want to build the greatest car in the world you are far more likely to succeed with the best parts rather than rusty old parts. The same is true for an organization. Engaged employees will improve organizational performance far more than disengaged employees.
So what makes us engaged employees that perform our best? Is it how much we make? Work environment? Fulfilling work? Or is it just being good at what we do? The MARS Model helps us identify what factors influence individual behaviors and where we can focus our efforts in order to improve performance.
MARS is a model in ‘Organizational Behavior’ that explains individual behavior using four factors:
- Role Perception,
- and Situational Factors.
In combination, these four factors have a strong influence on individual behavior and the resulting performance.
Let's take a look at each of these four factors individually.
1. Motivation describes the internal forces that affect the direction, intensity, and persistence of an individual’s behavior. Goals provide us with direction that we need to know what to stay motivated about. Intensity describes the amount of effort that we exert towards those goals, while persistence refers to the amount of time that effort is exerted.
Three widely accepted theories describe the motivational needs of individuals:
Let's begin by exploring Maslow's hierarchical needs.
There are 5 levels to Maslow's theory on motivation. To reach the highest level of motivation, basic conditions around an individual must support basic physiological needs (breathing, food, water, shelter, etc.). and going all the way up to our highest level needs for self-esteem and self-actualization. Individuals fulfill their lower level needs before they reach for their higher level needs. The highest levels of motivation require that all levels must be met.
ERG Needs Theory
Alderfer’s hierarchal theory is a simplification of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Grouping levels together, Alderfer broke down the hierarchy into three levels: existence, relatedness, and growth. Existence combines our physiological needs with our need for safety and security. Relatedness describes the need for love and belonging. Growth is a combination of the two highest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy for self-esteem and self-actualization. Again, individuals strive to meet their lower level needs first before reaching for the higher levels, but the greatest level of motivation is achieved when all needs are met.
Herzberg: Hygiene Factors and Motivators
Herzberg took a different approach, identifying two types of factors: hygiene factors and motivators.Hygiene factors, also called satisfiers, are aspects of our jobs that, when sufficient, give us a general level of satisfaction but do not provide motivation.
Hygiene factors in the context of working in a team can include examples, such as:
- job security
- working conditions,
- and quality of supervision.
When these factors are insufficient we become dissatisfied and unmotivated. Motivators, on the other hand, are the factors that provide us with high levels of satisfaction and motivation. Examples of motivators include:
- opportunity for advancement
- and challenging/stimulating work.
If a lack of motivation is a problem, you can use any of these motivational theories to get a better understanding of the cause. Analyzing which needs are not being met will give us a great starting point on how to improve motivation. If the lower level needs are the issue it might be time to reevaluate your compensation policy or the amount of job security your organization offers. If higher level needs are the issue then maybe it’s time to sit down and find ways to incorporate more growth and recognition into your organization. Using any of these three theories can help us get a better sense of how to improve the direction, intensity, and persistence for our own behaviors at work. But, even the most motivated employees will have poor performance if they lack the necessary ability to do the work required of them.
2. Ability has a large impact on behavior and performance. Abilities can be both natural aptitudes and learned capabilities. Natural aptitudes are inherent abilities that we are born with that allow us to perform a task better than most. Learned capabilities are skills that we acquire through training and experience. It’s important that we try and fit individuals into roles where they have natural aptitudes but also to provide them with the proper training to give them the best chance to succeed.
When employees lack ability it’s because we hired an individual that lacks natural aptitude for the position, or they haven’t received the necessary training. Possible solutions include changing hiring practises to hire better fit employees or providing employees with better training.
3. Role Perception assists individual understanding of the role they have in the team and responsibilities expected of them. With clear role perception they gain insight on how their efforts support the organization as a whole. In turn, they have good role perception.
There are three components to role perception:
- What the specific tasks are,
- The priority of these specific tasks,
- and understanding the behaviors and procedures necessary to accomplish these tasks.
Role perception guides an employee’s direction of effort, improving their coordination with other team members.
If employees lack role perception it could be because they don’t have a clear idea of what’s expected of them. Providing up to date and thorough job descriptions is a great way to help employees improve their role perception.
4. Situational Factors are conditions that are beyond an individual’s control that constrain or enhance behavior and performance. Some situational factors are beyond the control of both individual and the organization, such as: market demand and political or economic conditions. Other situational factors are beyond the control of an individual, but inside the organization’s control. For example, how much time employees are given to complete their work, the budget available for resources, and physical working conditions are factors that the organization has some control over.
Situational factors often contribute to issues around poor performance. Organizations need to focus on the factors that they do have some control over and do what they can to improve them. Organizations might need to provide more time, a larger budget, or improve the overall working conditions. Sometimes simple solutions like lowering the amount of office noise can have huge impacts on improving performance.
Behaviors and Results Addressed with MARS
When we address all the factors within the MARS Model, individual behavior will more likely lead to successful/improved performance. We work harder, faster, and smarter with:
- the proper motivation,
- the ability to do what is expected,
- an understanding of what is expected,
- and an environment which helps rather than hinders performance.
To give you a sense of how the MARS model works, let’s look at a quick example.
An enthusiastic and driven salesman loves the thrill of closing a deal (Motivation). He has a clear idea of what is expected of him as far as sales targets and how his contributions drive organizational success (Role Perception). He’s been given all the necessary resources to complete his job: nice office, new computer, and an unlimited supply of coffee (Situational Factors). But yet, he does not have the necessary product knowledge or sales knowledge/techniques to be successful (Ability).
Regardless of having met the other three factors the absence of one will always result in a negative impact on performance. All four factors are necessary to produce successful performance.
The MARS model is a great tool for analyzing individual performance. It considers both internal and external factors to get a holistic view of what drives individual performance. The absence of any four factors results in deterioration of individual performance. MARS gives us a great starting point for understanding how to improve individual performance in your organization.
1-on-1s and Coaching
Example 1-on-1 Templates
It can be tough to start from scratch, we understand! We've created a list of best practice templates from our industry experience. Feel free to use any of them, tweaking them to fit your culture best!
- What are the three most important things that you did this week?
- What are the three most important things that you are going to do next week?
- What’s going well in your role? Any big wins this week?
- What challenges are you facing?
- What do you want to talk about in our next 1-on-1?
- What are the top three things you have achieved, learned, and/or are proud of in this last quarter?
- What are your personal objectives and key results (OKR's) for next quarter (note ideas if not yet clear)? What challenges do you anticipate?
- How can you take your game to the next level in the next six months?
- What are three things that I can do to help you be more effective and engaged?
Goal Setting - First 30 Days
- What has surprised you the most in your first 30 days?
- Based on what you've seen, what do you believe your biggest and most important priority should be?
- Based on what you've seen, what do you believe your biggest challenges will be?
- Identify 5 goals / Key Objectives that have a time frame and state the intended result or outcome.
- Which position responsibilities do you view as most important? Why?
- Have there been any special circumstances that have helped or hindered you in doing your position this year? If yes, what were the circumstances and how did they affect yours work?
- List your most significant accomplishments or contributions during the past year?
- Since your last review conversation, have you performed any new tasks or additional duties outside the scope of your responsibilities? If so, please specify.
- Describe professional development activities that have been useful since last year (e.g. offsite seminars, onsite training, on-the-job experience)
- What would help you do your job better and provide greater job satisfaction?
- What kind of professional development activities would you like to do during the coming year?
90 Day Team Review
- What’s gone well these first 90 days?
- Do you have the training and tools to do your job?
- Are there any processes you think we could do differently or better?
Steps for running effective 1-on-1s
Before the meeting
- Depending on the nature of the one-on-ones, have an agenda on the issues you want to discuss. Ask for the employees to prepare an agenda as well to outline the purpose of the sessions. Include the time, what you want to discuss, and what you want as the end result of the meetings.
- Share the agenda couple of days before the one-on-ones so that both parties are aware of what the meetings are about.
- Encourage your employees to drop down their notes for each of the question and also any topics that they would like to discuss during the 1:1s.
- Choose a location that is private and neutral. Make sure you can sit across from your employees without any barriers.
- Review notes from previous sessions if available. Look for any action plans that you discussed from before that need follow ups.
- If your employees have created a draft with their answers, go over the notes before meeting with the employees.
- Go over their job descriptions to understand what their roles are in the company.
During the meeting
- Listen to what your employees have to say. Take notes so that you do not miss out on the details.
- Watch for your body language - make eye contact when employees are talking, take an open stance with arms uncrossed.
- Do not look at your watch or your phone. If you are concerned about the duration of the session, set a timer. If you are expecting an important phone call, let the employee know at the start of the meeting.
- Ask questions that are employee-focused. Take the opportunity to ask feedback for yourself as a manager.
- Schedule a follow-up session so as to track the progress of your employees in achieving the set goals.
After the meeting
- Review the notes you have taken during the meeting to ensure that they are accurate.
- Share them with the employees so that they have a record of the session.
- Be consistent. If you have set up deadlines with the employees on specific tasks, get in touch with them on the due dates.
- Deliver on your promises to support them. If you have discussed on ways you can help them, make sure that you do them so as to ensure the success of your employees.
These questions are designed to see whether employees know what the vision of the company is. It is also an opportunity for employees to share ideas and suggestions on what the companies should do in the short term and long term.
- Where are we going?
- What do you think the future holds for our company?
- What can we do now to be more successful in the future?
- Do you think that our core values are represented in our business practices?
- How well do you think the company is doing right now?
These questions give your employees the opportunity to openly share their opinions and suggestions to improve the company.
- If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
- Are we missing out on opportunities?
- What would you suggest to solve our number 1 problem we have?
- What are we not doing that we should be doing?
- What are the main issues that we should target?
Team member + Manager Reflection
These questions should focus on the employees specifically. Managers listen to their accomplishments, concerns, and career plans.
These questions will allow managers to recognize employees for their contributions, provide support to help them succeed, and to build the company’s succession planning.
- Where are you going?
- What are the personal accomplishments that you are proud of?
- What are your priorities for the next quarter?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What do you love about your job?
Team members share what they want to improve on in the near future. It is an opportunity for them to self-reflect on their own performance and contribution to the company.
- If you were your own coach, what suggestions would you have for yourself?
- What do you think are some areas of improvement for you?
- What part of your job now that you wish you could change?
- What do you think you have to improve on now to reach your goal later?
- What are the barriers that may be hindering your performance?
These questions are targeted to the managers. They allow the employees to give feedback in return on how managers can improve to be better at what they are doing.
- How can I help you better in achieving your goals?
- Is there anything I should start or stop doing?
- What is one thing I can do differently?
- If you were me, what changes would you make?
- What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?
Personal Development + Growth
- What is one of my strongest skills that I should utilize more frequently?
- What is the one area or skill that I should focus on developing further?
- How can I interact better with our customers?
- What are some of my career options here and paths to get there within the next 5-years?
- How can I take my game to the next level within the next 6-months?
- How did I perform last month during our end of quarter rush?
- What skills are important for me to learn this year?
- How can we improve our performance and effectiveness as a team?
- How was my level of contribution to our quarter goal?
- What is the one thing I can do to make sure our team achieves its goals?
- What are the three things we can do to become a rock-star team?
- How can I help increase our team’s agility?
- What are three ways I can be a better teammate?
- What are some of your expectations from me as a valued team-member?
- How can I be a better manager and help you succeed?
- What are three things that I can do to help you be more effective & engaged?
- What do you like about my management style?
- What is the one area/skill that I should focus on improving to be a better manager?
- How challenged do you feel in your role and do you feel you are leveraging your full potential?
- How happy are you and is there anything I can do to empower you?
- Do you feel recognized and valued by your team?
- What kind of new hires do you think can improve our effectiveness as a team?
Company-execution and HR questions
- What are three things we can do to make our company a better place to work at?
- Would you recommend working for our company to your friends?
- Do you see the connection between your goals and our key company goals?
- What is the one thing the company leaders can do to make things clear and visible for you?
- How is our fast growth affecting you?
- How connected and aligned do you feel to our core values and culture?
- How was the recent organizational change and how has it affected you?
- What is one thing you like about how our company operates?
- What do you like about our learning and onboarding programs and what is the one thing we can improve?
Function + Department related
- How do you think we can improve our sales process? (Sales)
- What is the biggest objection that you receive from customers selling? (Sales)
- How can we enhance our product development cycle? (Engineering)
- What is the one thing we can do to better delight our customers? (Customer Support)
- What are three things we can to increase our web conversion rates? (Marketing)
Creating 1-on-1 Templates in 7Geese
This walkthrough will take you through how to create customized templates for your teams for 1-on-1s. 7Geese comes pre-loaded with templates to help you get started. You can edit these pre-existing templates or create new ones.
To get started head over to 1-on-1s.
Adding or editing a template
Below 1-on-1 settings there will is a 1-on-1 Template Section where you can add or edit an existing template.
1. New Template: This is where you can create a new template from scratch.
2. My Templates: Templates you create for your teams will live here. Your templates will be visible to you, anyone that is up your reporting tree (i.e. your manager and their managers), and your direct reports.
2. Global Templates: Templates that you create for the entire organization will live here. This means that all users in your 7Geese network will be able to select these templates when they have 1-on-1s. Only admins can create Global Templates. To create a Global Template, make sure to check "This is a global template".
To preview the questions in the templates, click on the title. You can edit them by selecting "Edit Template" in the Actions menu to the right of the questions.
Adding Questions and Details
When creating a new template you will have options to add questions and descriptions for these questions to provide context or anything you think is important for an individual to know.
For each question in the example below, an accompanying descriptor is given to provide more information for the individual participating in the 1-on-1. They're used to help initiate thought encase someone is stuck for where to start.
When conducting a 1-on-1 this is how the questions and accompanying descriptors will appear:
Giving effective feedback
“Improper guidance and feedback are the single largest contributors to incompetence in the world of work” – Gilbert.
Feedback has become a crucial aspect for many organizations. Whether it is within the company such as peer feedback, or outside the company such as customers’ feedback, leaders have realized the importance of encouraging feedback in order to grow a successful business. Employees are trained on how to receive and give feedback. Managers are taking feedback from employees and their peers as part of performance management process. Organizations are making sure that open communication is well engrained in every business process.
Although I have written multiple blog posts on the benefits and how it is crucial for a company, I still found myself struggling with the concept of giving and receiving feedback. “Who were you to tell me how to do my job properly?” or “Who am I to tell you how to do things differently?” were two examples of questions that created defensiveness from my part. Many articles will give you pointers on how to receive and give feedback but I found some of these points too general. I know there are many employees out there who are also struggling with it. Therefore, I wanted to share my 7 tips on how I overcame my uncomfortableness with giving and receiving constructive feedback.
- Lead with a question – Nothing is more frustrating than a peer giving you feedback out of no where. Start by opening up with a question such as “How do you think you are doing on this specific matter?” It gives the person context to start with, but most importantly, the person feels included in the conversation. You do not want the person to feel attacked by sharing the feedback without giving a context. Remember that feedback should be a conversation, not a one-way communication outlet.
- Be part of the person’s entourage – Are you in a position of authority or part of the person’s day-to-day work circle? I have seen feedback sessions turned personal when feedback was exchanged between employees who had never worked together on a project before. Constructive feedback is productive when the feedback is coming from someone you trust – professionally and personally. Start practicing giving feedback to people you trust. It is also an opportunity for you to ask them for feedback in terms of communicating.
- Distinguish between the types of feedback – Be careful to clearly separate feedback that reflects your need from feedback that is for the improvement of the person. Always take time to dig deeper to the roots of the feedback. For example, telling someone “You are not involved enough with the team” may actually mean “I would like to have more opportunities to bring the team together”. Remember that feedback is to help others improve and not an outlet for you to vent.
- Be mindful of your own state – I have given harsh feedback when I was angry or frustrated. And unfortunately, you cannot take words back. The same applies when receiving feedback. If you are feeling flustered and defensive from the incoming feedback, acknowledge the person. Then ask for a 5-10 minute to recompose yourself. Take a break, go for a walk. After you relax and are more aware of your own composure, re-engage with the person. Never walk out on the person.
- Do not hold others to your expectations – Sometimes, you practice over and over on how to deliver a constructive feedback. When you finally share the feedback, the receiver, the latter is frustrated, angry or unresponsive. Do not expect that everyone will receive the feedback as well as you will. Every person has different ways of handling constructive feedback. It always hurts to have someone tell you that you have room for improvement. Be empathetic. Change takes time.
- Be careful when bringing others in the feedback – I remember this incident when a colleague gave me feedback, and to reinforce her point, she name-dropped another colleague of ours. It made me feel cornered, two against me. The worst is that my relationship with the other colleague turned sour because I felt like she backstabbed me and was not honest to give me the feedback face to face. Try your best to keep the feedback session between you and the person.
- Be part of feedback sessions – Recently, at 7Geese, we have decided to implement a “critic session” through different phases of launching a feature. The team gathers together and provides feedback on what we can do better. I think it is a great opportunity for every one of us to practice receiving and giving feedback. Each member’s goal is to point out as many flaws and improvements as possible in order to make our product the best. These feedback are not targeted at individuals, but at the sum of our works. These sessions allow me to give feedback and gain the trust of my team members.
To encourage your employees to be open to the process of feedback, it is important for you to create a culture of open communication across all members. One of the best practices I have seen is the CEO and executive team members proactively asking for feedback from their employees. Leading by example, these seniors leaders are showing that feedback is valued and heard at all levels of the organization. I would love to hear any tips you have to overcome the hurdle of giving and receiving constructive feedback. As we move towards workplace where continuous and real time feedback is key, we should embrace the uncomfortableness of sharing feedback with the end goal to build a successful company.
Making feedback less final
Feedback is that awkward thing in the room often looked at from a burden standpoint. Why? It's demoralizing to have someone burn your hard work in a list of complaints of how they would like to see/have done it differently if they were you.
There's this aura of finality that is brought to reading feedback. "I have to respond or incorporate this or it'll look like I'm not listening/a team player." The aura of finality can kill an otherwise awesome opportunity to learn about how to improve your work.
So let's tackle a few ways to make feedback less like the dreaded dinner party fruitcake and more like a delicious banana split you just can't get enough of.
Recall that awkward burn feeling when you've forgot the sunscreen on a hot day? If you feel yourself getting hot, check yourself.
Words convey your emotions more than you probably think. It's important to put a barrier between emotional and constructive responses. My personal favourite calming tool is to visualize my childhood house growing up. I recite the streets adjacent to where I lived. It is a complete mental distraction that allows me to clear my head before jumping back into the feedback.
The more you practice the art of separating emotions from constructive responses, the more you'll likely approach feedback from a calm place automatically. (Unfortunately, this has no influence on remembering to put on sunscreen when going to the beach.)
Approach feedback like discovering there's one more scoop of ice-cream in the freezer.
Surprise discoveries are awesome. Feedback can be too.
It's super easy to always assume feedback received is going to critic something you did. Feedback can be given when you've done a great job as well! If you walk into a situation with a "oh god, not again" mindset, no matter what it says you'll find a pessimistic something in the message you've received.
Every bit of feedback is one more scope of ice cream.
You are the owner of your own actions, so own up to your feelings.
When receiving feedback, it's ultimately up to you to decide how it gets handled. The giver is carving time out of their day to try help, not attack who you are. Try to not attack back. One strategy to make feedback less final is to work through the following framework: facts, feels, and solutions.
- Facts - what are the cold hard facts in this situation?
These statements are things that happened with no twist of emotions, such as: "the presentation happened on Tuesday, I hadn't got a good night sleep the night before, Joe was a co-presenter, I spent 3 hours prepping, etc."
Factual statements strip beliefs, emotions, and perspectives and are just statements of events that occurred.
- Feels - how do these facts make me feel?
Feel statements touch on your own interpretation of what happened and how you felt before receiving feedback as well as after. This could be something like, "I felt angry when you told me I wasn't prepared because I blanked on slide 3. I was nervous, it was my first time presenting to a CEO. I believe could have done a better job introducing myself, they had a lot of questions at the end."
Feel statements focus on defining beliefs, emotions, contexts and situations. They are interpretations from your own perspective.
- Solutions - what am I going to propose for next time to avoid the same situation/any potential negative feels.
Proposing solutions for next time is the most critical step. It's important to approach feedback and situations with a plan for how to avoid the same situation next time. Coming up with your own solutions for avoiding negative feelings also places emphasis on positive outcomes, not just the emotions you felt in step 2.
At the end of the day, you own the feedback. Everyone has an opinion, but not every opinion is in the betterment of the project or end goal. Remembering that feedback is merely one opinion is really important. It's equally as important to convey the end goal. This ensures no matter who is giving or receiving feedback, the betterment of the goal is at the core of next steps.
Feedback Feature in 7Geese
This walkthrough will provide insight on the privacy capabilities behind the feedback feature.
Feedback is an important part of learning and growth, so we want to ensure you can feel safe when asking for feedback, whenever you need, from whoever you like, without worrying about consequences related to performance evaluations.
- Anonymous feedback: turn this on so that the name of the responders are hidden to you. You can only choose this option if you select more than one responder.
- All responders: by default Feedback responses are only available to you and the person that gave you their response and different feedback providers cannot see each others responses. Turn this on if you'd like all participants to see each others' responses.
- My Direct Manager, My Management Tree, Admins: cannot view asked questions or responses received by default. Check off any of these options if you'd like to share your feedback with any of these groups in 7Geese. To see exactly who is in each group, just hover over the links and you'll see the list of people in them.
(They can only see the date and quantity of feedback received/given per cycle in the reporting dashboard. Since feedback information is not available if you choose not to share them, information shared here cannot be used for performance evaluations unless the feedback asker decides to share the feedback.)
- You have complete control over deleting your feedback question and responses at anytime. The 7Geese admin cannot change any of your feedback.
Here's where you can set how you would like your feedback request to appear:
Private notes in 7Geese
Accessible from the profile page and 1-on-1 agenda builder, private notes let you store confidential for-you-only notes about your teammates.
To get started, on the profile page of your teammate there's a button to access private notes on the top right. When there's notes inside the scratchpad, it'll highlight in blue (as seen below).
Inside of the scratchpad, there's an added level of privacy where to activate you have to hover over to see your notes. This avoids any potential accidental peaks at your notes that were unintended.
Here's a few of our favourite use cases as you get started:
- Keep follow-up or prep notes to have with your team during 1-on-1s
- Add coaching comments and reminders to discuss
- You've learnt something interesting about them and want to remember
Private notes are only accessible to the user adding them, no admins or other teammates can access them at any time without your consent.
Please contact email@example.com for further questions or if you believe something is missing, misrepresented, or outdated.